More than 200,000 voters go to the polls in Vanuatu to elect a new 53-member parliament in a snap ballot called after a corruption scandal hit the Pacific island archipelago.
Vanuatu votes in snap poll after bribery scandal
Vanuatu votes in snap poll after bribery scandalWellington (New Zealand) – 22 January 2016 – AFP More than 200,000 voters went to the polls in Vanuatu on Friday to elect a new 53-member parliament in a snap ballot called after a corruption scandal hit the Pacific island archipelago.The parliament was dissolved in November by President Baldwin Lonsdale when 14 lawmakers were jailed for bribery.The political breakdown in Port Vila follows a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years.The chief executive of Transparency International in Vanuatu told Radio New Zealand the vote was crucial in moving the country forward and improving government integrity.Wilson Toa said the bribery case underlined how the Vanuatu political system required substantial reforms. “This election will only show two things as far as transparency is concerned,” he said.”Either we’ve learned from the past, or we haven’t learned from the past, and I think the onus is on the voters and it will give us an indication of which direction Vanuatu is heading.” The election has taken place amid criticism that the electoral roll is not up to date.Electoral Commission chairman John Killion Taleo said there was not enough time to add people who reached the voting age of 18 since last July to the roll.Priscilla Meto, the president of Vanuatu Youth Against Corruption, claimed about 3,000 eligible names were missing from the roll.There was also a problem with removing the names of people who had died as some of the impoverished nation’s outer islands did not maintain official records of residents who passed away.The constitutional crisis erupted last year when the 14 lawmakers were convicted on bribery charges and hastily tried to pardon themselves.Lonsdale was overseas at the time and restored the convictions on his return, vowing “to clean up the mess”. Parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite, using his powers as acting president, issued pardons for himself and his co-conspirators.The charges centred on payments of 35 million vatu (US$312,000) made by Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses to 13 other politicians while they were all in opposition. Vanuatu, which gained independence in 1980 and has an estimated population today of more than 270,000, is still recovering from a deadly category five storm last March that destroyed homes and crops and contaminated water supplies.END