14 Oct 2004

Fears in Vanuatu that sweeping constitutional changes could lead to a dictatorship

9:14 pm on 14 October 2004

There are claims in Vanuatu that the Government's plans to change the constitution will take the country towards a dictatorship.

The Government has called an extra-ordinary session of Parliament for next Monday and Tuesday to promote a measure it says is aimed at ending the endemic political instability in Vanuatu.

The measure calls for independents and parties which change allegiance to be expelled from Parliament; an extension of the parliamentary term from four to five years; and the abolition of referenda on planned constitutional changes.

The spokesperson for Transparency International in Vanuatu, Marie Noell Ferrieux Patterson, says the most frightening feature is an almost blanket ban on no confidence votes.

"there is not to be a vote of no confidence two years after the election, and there is not to be a vote of no confidence two years before the election, so"

there might be a day inbetween when people can actually do something. But that is the extent of what we have seen, so it is very much a frightening matter, because it is only two days - there has been no consultation.