23 May 2002

Vanuatu vote recount gives UMP edge over VP

4:53 pm on 23 May 2002

Revised election results in Vanautu show that the Union of Moderate Parties has emerged as the most successful party, nearly doubling its MPs from the previous poll in 1998.

After a recount of two Santo constituencies, the Electoral Commission says the UMP now has 15 seats, up one, while the Vanuaaku Pati will have 14 members in the 52-seat Parliament.

The two parties have already announced plans to continue a coalition formed a year ago, but there is confusion about who will lead it.

There is also confusion about who the independents in the house support .

The Vanuaaku Pati has expressed confidence that its leader, Edward Natapei, will remain Prime Minister, but as Port Vila based journalist Ben Bohane says there are doubts that the UMP leader Serge Vohor will be willing to play second fiddle to Mr Natapei.

"The question becomes whether he will use the option to become prime minister himself or whether he may use the additional power that he has since the UMP are now in a position to control what government gets formed he may now instead put his power into making sure that UMP have control of the more powerful portfolios."

The Prime Minister will be chosen when Parliament meets early next month.