Vanuatu appoints new prime minister

Vanuatu elects Charlot Salwai as new prime minister, following snap elections triggered by corruption scandal

Photo by: Shutterstock
Photo by: Shutterstock

Vanuatu elects its new prime minister after corruption scandal

Charlot Salwai was elected the new prime minister of Vanuatu on Thursday, following a snap election sparked by a corruption scandal that destabilised the government.

Salwai, from the Reunification of Movements for Change party, was announced as leader of the South Pacific island nation some three weeks after more than 200,000 voters went to the polls, the Vanuatu Daily Post and other media reported.

Salwai, thanked local chiefs, church leaders and the people of Vanuatu for their role in "steering the country back on track after a very tough year in 2015".

"The changes which you have shown in your voting have shown that you have voted for change,” he said, according to the Vanuatu News.

"Today we have two thirds of the (52-member) parliament who are new members of parliament... and this has shown that this house must recognise the voice of the people."

In November, President Baldwin Lonsdale dissolved the parliament and called for a snap election after 14 lawmakers were jailed over bribery charges.

During a period when Lonsdale was overseas, Parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite, who was the acting president at the time used these powers to issue pardons for himself and his partners in crime.

On his return, Lonsdale restored the convictions, vowing "to clean up the mess". 

The bribery allegations were actually centred on Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses, who paid 35 million vatu (US$312,000) to 13 politicians part of the opposition at the time.

The political breakdown came after a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years.