Some political developments, in two of our Pacific Ocean neighbors. A freshly re-elected John Momis will be sworn in today for a new term as President in the autonomous region of Bougainville, and one motion of no confidence toppled the prime minister of Vanuatu last week and there could be another this week. Details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
President Momis defeated eight rivals by a wide margin last week. He received more than 51,000 votes, to runner-up Ishmael Toroama's 18,466 votes. Another defeated presidential candidate, Sam Kauona, vows to challenge the election in court, charging that ballot boxes were stuffed with fake votes. A group of international observers from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, The European Union and the United States said they saw a peaceful election day and a vote count conducted with integrity. Bougainville won autonomous status within Papua New Guinea after a long war for independence. The settlement, brokered by New Zealand, includes the promise of a referendum on independence before 2020. After his inauguration today, President Momis says he'll start talks with British-Australian multinational Rio Tinto to re-open the Panguna copper mine the company operated before the war.
Meanwhile in Vanuatu, Prime Minister Joe Naumann lost his office last week when three members of his own party crossed the aisle to vote with the opposition. Recently fired Foreign minister Sato Kilman took over. That's the ninth change at the top in Vanuatu in the past five years. 24 hours later, the new opposition leader filed a no confidence motion of his own, and that goes to a vote on Thursday. Issues include distribution of aid received after much of the island nation was devastated by Cyclone Pam.