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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Sato Kilman Resumes Leadership As Vanuatu Prime Minister
Opponent Edward Natapei says numbers not on his side

By Sean Dorney

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 19, 2012) – The newly-elected Vanuatu Parliament has given the country's top political job back to Sato Kilman.

Vanuatu's Parliament has elected Sato Kilman as prime minister, three weeks after the country held its general election.

Mr. Kilman's Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) won only six of the 52 parliamentary seats but has managed to stitch together a loose, multiparty coalition.

No fewer than 16 political parties are represented in the house, and there was uncertainty right up until Parliament met on Monday as to which team might emerge with the winning number.

The vote indicates at least one of those parties, the Union of Moderates, has already split.

The largest party, the Vanua'aku Party, led by Edward Natapei, won eight seats and as late as yesterday it appeared he may have been putting together a winning coalition.

But Mr. Natapei said by Monday he knew the numbers weren't on his side.

"Some of the members who were with us yesterday - who actually assured us they were going to be on our side - moved across to the other side today," he said.

"We felt it was important to ensure we keep our numbers so I had to contest just to maintain our numbers," he said.

The first vote when Parliament met was to choose the Speaker. One of Sato Kilman's own PPP MPs, the caretaker Internal Affairs Minister, George Wells, won 29 votes to 23.

That margin - 29 to 23 - was repeated when the vote for Prime Minister was held, allowing Mr. Kilman to remain the country's Prime Minister.

A large number of petitioners have challenged the results of the elections, claiming irregularities. If the courts agree, there could be a number of by-elections next year.

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