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Thursday 4 February 2016 | Published in Regional


PORT VILA – An agreement has been signed by over two thirds of the Vanuatu’s 52 MPs to commit to forming a new coalition government.

The memorandum was signed in Port Vila by 36 MPS after a week of horse trading following last week’s snap election.

Radio New Zealand Pacific reporter Jamie Tahana was in Vanuatu for the election has the latest.

“Originally a press conference was announced for 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning, but that was continually delayed until finally, yesterday evening, it was announced that 36 MPs have signed this agreement to form the next government.

“Now this coalition includes the Unity for Change bloc which was agreed between the former opposition group leading into the election. That’s the Vanua‘aku Pati of Joe Natuman, and Ralph Regenvanu’s Graon mo Jastis Pati, also including a few minor ones.

“Other parties have signed off during this past week of negotiations since the snap elections. These parties include the Nagriamel and, interestingly, the Green Confederation Party, whose former leader Moana Carcasses, spearheaded the bribery scheme that lead to the jailing of 14 MPs last year and ultimately, the snap election.

“So the People’s Progress Party of caretaker prime minister Sato Kilman is not among this group, but it does include parties with a lengthy history of crossing the floor of parliament during the frequent motions of no-confidence which characterise Vanuatu politics.

“However a statement released by the Graon Mo Jastis Pati leader Ralph Regenvanu says those who signed the MOA are united by a common understanding that there is an urgent and paramount need for political reform to reduce instability in government. So he’s, I guess, banking on them staying together.

Tahana said the memorandum didn’t include the naming of cabinet minsiters.

“No names have been announced in this. Parliament sits next week – they’ll enter closed door meetings to work out who will get ministerial portfolios, and who will lead this group and become the next prime minister of Vanuatu.

“There’s only thirteen ministerial portfolios to be allocated and it’s uncertain just how this group will divvy them among themselves to keep everyone happy – and united, more importantly.

“And regarding the role of prime minister, the frontrunners are Mr Regenvanu, who hasn’t been prime minister before, as well as the former prime minister and Vanua’aku Pati leader Joe Natuman, as well as another former MP Ham Lini who just scraped in to be re-elected in his electorate, – and who knows maybe another couple of surprises. This will all be known when parliament formally sits on February 11 to elect a prime minister and speaker of parliament.

“About two-thirds of the MPs are first-timers. So this is a new parliament and a largely inexperienced one, so this next term will be interesting.” - RNZI