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Vanuatu Voters Support Constitutional Change To End Political Instability

By AFP - Agence France Presse

by admin

June 12, 2024

Vanuatu has voted to change its constitution in a bid to end years of political instability, results of the Pacific nation’s first national referendum showed on Wednesday.

A grassroots push to alter the constitution had been gaining momentum since October last year, when Vanuatu churned through three prime ministers in a month.

Vanuatu’s 52-member parliament is currently dominated by independents and micro-parties, who clump together in ever-changing coalitions that rarely last a full term.

A string of governments have been toppled over the years when supposedly loyal coalition MPs have abruptly crossed the floor.

The constitutional changes backed by voters would make it harder for MPs to switch sides or abandon their allegiance in the of a parliamentary term.

An amendment that would bind politicians to a political party for the duration of a four-year term passed with 59 percent support, Vanuatu’s electoral commission said.

A second change that effectively stops MPs from sitting as independents passed with 57 percent support, the commission added.

More than 90,000 voted in the referendum.

Referendum backers believe the constant threat of government instability has sucked attention away from natural disasters, a spluttering economy, and the ever-present threat of climate change.

But critics fear these changes could make it harder for MPs to express dissenting views against the party line.

Pacific watcher Jon Fraenkel from New Zealand’s Victoria University was not sure the changes were wise.

He said it would be extremely difficult to impose a rigid party system on a nation that had long eschewed the idea.

“These kinds of things just generate more potential crisis points,” he told AFP.

Vanuatu changed prime minister 20 times between 1991 and 2017.

The political tumult reached crisis levels at the end of 2023, when three prime ministers rotated through the top office in the space of 32 days.

Vanuatu’s constitution came into force in 1980, shortly after the former British and French colony once known as the New Hebrides declared its independence.

The Barron’s news department was not involved in the creation of the content above. This article was produced by AFP. For more information go to AFP.com.

© Agence France-Presse


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