Former Vanuatu MPs to challenge dissolution of parliament

9:25 pm on 25 November 2015

A group of Vanuatu opposition MPs intends to legally challenge the president's decision to dissolve parliament.

President Baldwin Lonsdale says his actions yesterday afternoon came after careful consideration based on the failure of both sides to resolve the political impasse which arose after the jailing of 14 government MPs convicted of bribery last month.

The dissolution paves the way for a snap election somewhere between Christmas and late January.

However the opposition, which had sought unsuccessfully to have prime minister Sato Kilman agree to a government of national unity, has now decided to take President Lonsdale's decision to the supreme court.

Crowds gather to witness the convicted MP's inside the escorted Police Vehicle in front of the Correctional facility that they will serve their jail term

Crowds gather to witness the convicted MP's inside the escorted Police Vehicle in front of the Correctional facility that they will serve their jail term Photo: SUPPLIED / Transparency International Vanuatu

An expert on Melanesian affairs and founder of the Devpacific Thinknet, Tess Newton Cain, says if the legal challenge does go ahead it will not be the first time that the limits of presidential powers have been questioned in Vanuatu.

"In the 1980s the president was imprisoned for dissolving parliament without taking the advice and consideration of the prime minister and the council of ministers. My understanding is that that doesn't apply, that this was done in consultation with government as it currently stands. So obviously the opposition may feel that there is a case to answer and that will be a matter for the court."

However, the dissolution of parliament offers an opportunity for significant political change in a country long accustomed to political instability.

Tess Newton Cain says with some of the country's most influential politicians behind bars, the early elections can totally change the political leadership.

"There is going to be a need for a whole new cast of players, I think some people's politcal careers have now come to an end, they won't be able to take part in this election, I don't see them coming back. So you know I think there is the potential for it to be a really significant turning point for Vanuatu. Whether that potential is realised we have yet to see."

Meanwhile, President Lonsdale said dissolution and a snap election were in the best interests of Vanuatu.

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