TESS NEWTON CAIN |
Official results of Vanuatu elections declared
In Vanuatu, the official results of the recent elections have been announced. The two pre-independence parties (Vanuaaku Pati and the Union of Moderate Parties) have secured seven seats each.
Negotiations are underway to form a new coalition government. There are currently two camps. One includes the caretaker Prime Minister, Bob Loughman, and claims 22 members. The other group includes caretaker Deputy Prime Minister, Ishmael Kalsakau, and claims to have 30 members secured.
It is a complicated task to form a coalition that will have sufficient cohesion to last the course. There are only thirteen ministries to allocate. There are three former Prime Ministers in the mix, each of whom may consider that they should retake the top job.
Parliament has yet to be called. It is only when MPs-elect take their seats under ‘the red roof’ that we will know for certain how the alliances have formed.
Parliamentary suspensions in Samoa
Political conflict has reignited in Samoa.
Two members of the Opposition have been suspended from the Parliament for a period of two years. They are former Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi. The suspension relates to the pair having been convicted of contempt of court. In a secret ballot held in Parliament, 29 MPs voted in favour of the suspension, with 19 voting against.
The suspension has been described as unconstitutional by Fuimaono Dylan Asafo, a legal academic. Fuimaono points to the fact that the suspension means that two electorates in Samoa now have no representation in the Parliament.
Meanwhile the former Prime Minister has argued that the suspensions are an abuse of power on the part of the government, under the leadership of Fiame Naomi Mata’afa. He and Lealailepule have said that they will not resign their seats and are considering taking legal action.
Marles optimistic about forthcoming elections in Fiji
The date for the forthcoming general elections in Fiji has yet to be announced.
During a visit to Fiji, Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, commented that Fiji had a reputation for conducting elections that were free and fair. He said that Australia, as co-lead of the Multi-country Observer Group, looked forward with optimism to Fiji holding elections in the not too distant future.
His remarks were met with some concern by respected commentator, Wadan Narsey. He referred to an article he had written further to the 2014 elections, in which he had identified several issues that, according to him, called into question the validity of the elections process.
Further to Mr Marles’ visit, the electoral authorities in Fiji released the terms of reference for elections observers. They include several reasons that an election observer may have their accreditation revoked.
Increased aid to the Pacific islands region from Australia
Ahead of this week’s federal budget, the Australian Foreign Minister flagged a sizeable increase in development assistance to the Pacific.
Speaking at a conference in Papeete, Senator Penny Wong announced an additional $900 million allocated to the Pacific over the next four years. This exceeds the amount that was promised as part of the Labor government’s election campaign pledges.
Minister Wong framed these commitments as a contribution to “making Australia stronger and more influential” in the world. Whilst this language is likely aimed at a domestic audience, it will be noted in the region as further evidence of an increasingly transactional approach towards relationships.
Whilst details of how this new money will be allocated are yet to be received, Senator Wong announced that 80% of aid spending would once again be directed to support for women and girls in the region.
Tess Newton Cain is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Griffith Asia Institute and project lead of the Pacific Hub.