23 Apr 2004

Vanuatu's president faces impeachment vote

11:08 am on 23 April 2004

Vanuatu's new president is facing impeachment after revelations he has a criminal record.

Reports say Alfred Maseng, who was elected on Easter Monday, faces a vote of no confidence and impeachment within a week.

The prime minister, Edward Natapei, has lodged papers with the state law office calling for an investigation.

Mr Maseng's criminal record should have struck him off running for president.

He is currently serving a suspended sentence for receiving stolen goods.

The electoral commission in Vanuatu has joined the National Council of Women in calling for the president to quit outright.

Legislation states potential political candidates undergo vigorous security checks requiring a clean record.

The chairman for the electoral commission, Sethy Regenvanu, says it faces a dilemma:

"The situation confronting us now is that we know he has a suspended sentance after he is elected. Now we are confronted with what we should do. Should he step down voluntarily? Beause of his status? Or should other options be investigated?"

Sethy Regenvanu confirms the state law office is working out a solution even, if Mr Maseng steps down of his own will:

Their options have been they approached the president into talking to getting him to step down, but I believe that his constituency is considering other ways of approaching his situation but I also believe that the state office is considering other options as a matter of urgency.