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  • Vanuatu
  • Anita Jowitt (bio)

Vanuatu celebrated its twenty-fifth year of independence in 2005. However, it has largely been "business as usual" on the political front, with the normal morass of personal or personality-based politicking, leavened by a number of scandals. There was some instability in the national government and some political parties, and a number of management issues arose in various state institutions, but 2005 was not as turbulent as some recent years have been. It has, however, been a year of complexity. Maneuverings within and between parties have affected both local (municipal) and national politics, and local politics hasaffected national politics as well. Various state-owned enterprises have also had their composition affected as the political fortunes of various parties have changed.

In national politics, the year began with Ham Lini as prime minister of a newly formed government. Ham Lini is a relative newcomer to national politics, only assuming a leadership role in National United Party (NUP) following the death of his brother in 1999. He gained the position of prime minister in December 2004, after a no-confidence vote in the short-lived government that had been formed following the July 2004 elections, led by Serge Vohor (Union of Moderate Parties, or UMP). While there was some talk that this was "Vanuatu's Lini legacy revived" (PVPO, 14 Dec 2004), Ham Lini is operating in an environment more political than the one that existed for his brother, Father Walter Hadye Lini, in the yearsfollowing independence.

Father Lini, who was prime minister from 1980 to 1991, operated under what was basically a two-party system. He led a Vanua'aku Party (VP) government. The primary opposition was the UMP, which had its roots in a collection of several small francophone parties. Following the 1987 election, only three parties—VP, UMP, and the Fren Melanesian Party (which had one seat)—were represented in Parliament. However, 1987 marked the beginning of the change to a political system in which many small parties vie for power, and coalition government is now the rule rather than the exception. After Father Lini suffered a stroke in 1987, others began to challenge his leadership. In 1988 Barak Sope broke from the VP to form the Melanesian Progressive Party (MPP), and in 1991 Donald Kalpokas replaced Lini as [End Page 430] the prime minister and VP leader. This prompted Father Lini to split from VPand form the NUP. Since then, the number of parties has proliferated and the number represented in Parliament has gradually grown, from six parties following the 1991 election toten parties (plus nine independent candidates) following the 2004 election.

Ham Lini's coalition at the beginning of 2005 represented eleven parties. Essentially a line was drawn between UMP in opposition, and everyone else in a coalition government. Lini gained the position of prime minister on 11 December 2004, but his position was far from stable, and by 31 December there were already media reports of planned reshuffles to try to accommodate all the coalition partners. Throughout the year there were a number of changes in the cabinet and alterations to the coalition. The most significant of these occurred in November, whenthen Finance Minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil was removed from cabinet and the Greens Confederation (GC) removed from the coalition (VDP, 15 Nov 2005). This split was brought about in part because GC was gaining increasing power and demanding additional seats in cabinet (Independent, 28 Aug 2005; VDP, 26Sept 2005). A second factor in this split was related to political maneuvering for the position of lord mayor of Port Vila. GC had signed an agreement with VP and the opposition UMP that was to give the position of mayor to UMP and the position of deputy mayor to GC, to be rotated after two years. This effectively placed GC in alliance with the opposition and shut out one of the main coalition partners, NUP. The GC/UMP/VP agreement was later trumped by a second agreement between NUP, VP, the Vanuatu Republican Party (VRP) and the National Community Association (NCA), which gave the position of mayor to VP (VDP, 11 Nov 2005). Theousting of GC from the government created...


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