27 Nov 2009

Vanuatu Speaker claims Prime Minister has lost seat for non attendance

12:30 pm on 27 November 2009

Vanuatu has been plunged into a political crisis with the Speaker ruling that the Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, has lost his seat for non-attendance.

The Speaker, Maxime Carlot Korman, told Parliament this morning that MPs will need to elect a new Prime Minister next week and there will be a by-election for Mr Natapei's Port Vila seat.

Mr Korman has based his ruling on standing orders that say an MP may lose his or her seat if three consecutive meetings of Parliament are missed and the Speaker's office is not notified of the reasons for the absence.

He told Parliament Mr Natapei, who is attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, had not informed his office he wouldn't be attending Parliament this week.

This comes as Mr Korman is set to be replaced as Speaker after his Vanuatu Republican Party was ousted last week from the coalition government.

In that reshuffle Mr Natapei also dumped half his Cabinet.

He also made the alliance leader Sato Kilman the deputy prime minister, replacing Ham Lini.

A commentator in Port Vila says whether the Speaker's decision holds will depend on the definition of a meeting.