16 Jun 2009

Sope challenge prompts Vanuatu by-election for four seats

12:54 pm on 16 June 2009

A by-election is to be held in the Efate Rural constituency in Vanuatu after a Supreme Court ruling removed four MPs from Parliament.

The four MPs to stand down are Roro Sambo of Mele Village, Alfred Carlot of Erakor, Joshua Kalsakau, and Bakoa Kaltongga, who had been the foreign minister.

An unsuccessful candidate in Efate Rural, a former Prime Minister, Barak Sope, had brought an electoral petition claiming that the four MPs used inducements to win their seats.

Our correspondent in Port Vila, Len Garae, explains Mr Sope's concerns.

"He felt he should have won his seat, but new candidates that contested the election had lured his supporters away by means of handing out gifts, including mobile phones and most probably cash."

The principal electoral officer, Martin Tete, says the Electoral Commission will meet the Prime Minister later this week to set a date for the by-election.

Meanwhile, the Government is reported to have the support of 27 of the remaining 48 MPs heading into a possible vote of no confidence later today.