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Pacific News Minute: Vanuatu Elects Fragmented Parliament; Flights Suspended Over Safety Concerns

Phillip Capper / Flickr
Phillip Capper / Flickr

Results are in from Vanuatu's snap election, which followed a scandal that saw 14 members of Parliament convicted on bribery charges.  Several prominent politicians lost their seats, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute, no clear winner emerged.

The people of Vanuatu elected a raft of new faces, including a record ten independents. 17 political parties will have at least one Member of Parliament, none more than six.  Two of the larger parties...Graon Mo Justis and Vanua'aku formed a coalition called the United Front for Change.  Both are led by former Prime Ministers, and Kenneth Natapei, the son of another former Prime Minister who told the correspondent of Radio New Zealand that if it can form a new government, this group will enact laws to discourage members of parliament from switching sides and ousting one government after another through votes of no confidence. "We need change," he said, "to end political instability and corruption." The current Prime Minister, Sato Kilman will lead another group trying to gather a majority in the 52 seat house.

Whoever emerges as the new Prime Minister has an immediate crisis on hand - last Friday, Air New Zealand suspended all flights to Port Vila because of concerns over the safety of the runway at Bauerfield International - Quantas followed suit the next day. Virgin Australia will continue service to and from Brisbane, for now.  The country relies heavily on tourism.

And, in an embarrassment, Vanuatu lost its vote in the United Nations General assembly for the second year in a row, after it failed to pay its membership fee.  The Marshall Islands is among seven other countries to lose their vote for the same reason.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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