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General elections were held in Vanuatu on 22 January 2016. The previous elections occurred in October 2012. The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, dissolved the Parliament of Vanuatu in November 2015.[1] This occurred after the conviction of 14 parliamentarians for bribery. The convicted MPs include former Prime Ministers Serge Vohor and Moana Carcasses Kalosil. The president called for a snap election to form a new government.

2016 Vanuatuan general election

← 2012 22 January 2016

All 52 seats in the Parliament of Vanuatu
  First party Second party Third party
  Ralph Regenvanu.jpg Joe Natuman 2014 (cropped).jpg Rialuth Serge Vohor (Imagicity 1307) (cropped).jpg
Leader Ralph Regenvanu Joe Natuman Serge Vohor
Party Land and Justice VP UMP
Last election 4 seats, 6.02% 8 seats, 11.29% 5 seats, 12.19%
Seats won 7 seats 6 seats 6 seats
Seat change Increase3 Decrease2 Increase1
Popular vote 8,376 13,463 10,999
Percentage 7.41% 11.91% 9.73%
Swing Increase1.4 Increase0.6 Decrease2.5

Prime Minister before election

Sato Kilman
People's Progress Party

Elected Prime Minister

Charlot Salwai
Reunification Movement for Change



Vanuatu has a unicameral parliament with 52 Members of Parliament. The people elect their members by voting for one candidate. In multi-member constituencies, Vanuatu uses the single non-transferable vote system and in single-member districts, first-past-the-post voting is used.[2] Each parliamentarian holds office for a term of 4 years. In Vanuatu, there are eight single-member districts and nine multi-seat constituencies. The district magnitude of multi-seat constituencies has a range of two members to seven members for each constituency. Citizens elect the President of Vanuatu and the government elects the Prime Minister of Vanuatu.

Historically, the Vanuatuan government and society divided itself along linguistic lines. The Vanua'aku Party represented the Anglophone interests and the Union of Moderate Parties represented the Francophone interests.[3] Over time the linguistic divide has diminished as Vanuatu established a stronger national identity post-independence. Party allegiances have become less strong as factions split and formed new political parties.

In recent years more than 30 parties have won seats in the Vanuatuan parliament.[4] A ruling government needs to have a majority of parliamentarians to pass legislation and effectively rule. Consequently, coalitions are necessary to govern in Vanuatu. Coalitions often struggle to find a common legislative agenda to lead the nation which can be a cause of political instability. Following the 2012 Vanuatu election, there were five successive Cabinets of Vanuatu which were either formed after votes of no-confidence or after members had deserted the cabinet for the opposition.

Clientelism has been a problem in Vanuatuan politics since the country's independence in 1980.[3] Often the lines between clientelism and corruption in Vanuatu have been ill-defined. The successful conviction of 14 MPs, including two former prime ministers, for bribery was one of the largest steps taken to combat corruption. The Supreme Court found that while in the opposition in 2014, former prime minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil bribed parliamentarians with 35 million vatu (US$300,000) to support a no-confidence motion. He then became deputy Prime Minister in Sato Kilman's Cabinet. The court convicted Carcasses and the other 13 parliamentarians, including the parliament's speaker Marcellino Pipite, for offering and receiving bribes; they sentenced the MPs in November 2015 to three years in jail and banned them from public office for 10 years.[5] As this verdict was delivered while President Lonsdale was out of the country, the speaker assumed the role of the president and issued pardons for all involved including himself. Lonsdale overturned the pardons when he returned to Vanuatu the following day. As several of the convicted parliamentarians were members of the Cabinet of Vanuatu, Prime Minister Sato Kilman was unable to effectively rule. Kilman was not able to form a new government - nearly 1/3 of MPs were in jail - which led to governmental gridlock causing the Parliament to be dissolved by the president. The traditional chiefs of Vanuatu - the Malvatumauri - called for calm during this process and asked that the people allow for the legal process to unfold, suggesting that their power is mostly ceremonial and is limited politically.[5] Following this failure to form a new government, Lonsdale called a snap election for 22 January 2016.


The official campaign began on 5 January 2016. A total of 261 candidates contested the elections, including 68 independents and 193 representing 36 political parties.[6] The convicted MPs were not permitted to run as one cannot run for office in Vanuatu if they have a criminal conviction.[7] Candidates who could afford to pay for airtime dominated mainstream media during the campaign; social media played an important role in this election.[8] Only 10 women contested seats in this election and youth engagement in the campaign and election appears to have increased from 2012 but remained low.[8]

Election DayEdit

Polls opened throughout the country on 22 January at 7:30AM and closed at 4:30PM.[9] To facilitate high turnout levels, the government declared the day a public holiday. Schools, churches and other public centers transformed into polling stations. The Commonwealth and the Melanesian Spearhead Group observed the election to ensure electoral integrity.

Both groups of international observers remarked that turnout was low. The process of voting in Vanuatu works as follows: People who are 18 and above can vote if they have a voter card. The details are verified twice with the citizen then given an envelope with a sheet with the name, picture and political party symbol on a piece of paper. Each candidate had a different colored sticky paper attachment. In the voting booth, the voter identifies their preferred candidate, rips off the corresponding piece of paper and puts it into the envelope. The envelope is then dropped into a ballot box. The voter then retrieves their voter card and their thumb is inked. Voters are also able to proxy vote for two others while they cast their own vote.[9]

The election day was peaceful and orderly.[10] Voters headed to the polls early. Women and youth turned out to vote in high numbers. The conduct at polling stations did not vary around the country, suggesting relatively sufficient following of electoral rules.

After the polls closed at 4:30PM, the workers at the polling stations counted the ballots. As Vanuatu employs the first-past-the-post system, the process of counting the votes was straightforward. Each candidate's number of votes were tallied and sent to the independently run Vanuatu Electoral Commission who announced the winners for each parliamentary seat.[9]


Party Votes % Seats +/–
Vanua'aku Pati 13,463 11.91 6 –2
Union of Moderate Parties 10,999 9.73 6 +1
Land and Justice Party 8,376 7.41 7 +3
National United Party 6,196 5.48 4 0
People's Progress Party 5,469 4.84 1 –5
Iauko Group 4,979 4.40 4 +1
Vanuatu National Development Party 4,942 4.37 2 New
Vanuatu Presidential Party 4,234 3.74 1 +1
Nagriamel 4,128 3.65 3 0
Namangi Aute 3,887 3.44 3 0
Natatok Indigenous People's Democratic Party 3,024 2.67 1 –1
Green Confederation 2,851 2.52 2 –1
Leaders Party of Vanuatu 2,459 2.17 1 New
Vanuatu Republican Party 1,975 1.75 0 –1
Vanuatu Labour Party 1,780 1.57 1 +1
Vanuatu Liberal Democratic Party 1,565 1.38 0 –1
Fren Melanesian Party 1,465 1.30 1 +1
Vanuatu National Party 1,284 1.14 0 –1
Unity for Change 1,261 1.12 0 New
Hope Party 1,180 1.04 0 New
People's Services Party 1,032 0.91 1 0
Melanesian Progressive Party 992 0.88 0 –2
Moderate Alliance Party 701 0.62 0 New
Vanuatu Progressive Development Party 597 0.53 0 –1
Vanuatu New Vision in Development Party 447 0.40 0 New
Tafea Moderate Alliance 429 0.38 0 New
Vanuatu Progressive Republican Farmer Party 355 0.31 0 New
United Liberation Front 327 0.29 0 0
Vanuatu Democratic Party 327 0.29 0 0
Leaders Party for Change 322 0.28 0 New
Vete Alliance 306 0.27 0 New
Vemarana 304 0.27 0 0
Vanuatu Family First Party 211 0.19 0 0
Vanuatu Community Reform Party 157 0.14 0 New
People's Action Party 80 0.07 0 0
Vanuatu United and Equal Rights Part 47 0.04 0 New
Vanuatu Democratic Alliance and Liberation Party for Change 8 0.01 0 0
Independents 20,904 18.49 8 +4
Invalid/blank votes 1,141
Total 114,204 100 52 0
Registered voters/turnout 200,159 57.06
Source: Vanuatu Daily

As candidates only need to receive more votes than their competitor, all MPs were elected with 41% or less of the vote.[11] All parties received less than 15% of the vote. The races were extremely tight – in the constituency of Paama, MP Fred William Tasso won his seat by seven votes.[12] The candidates who won represented diverse interests including different tribes and linguistic groups - although zero women won seats.[13] Multiple new political parties won seats in this Parliament and the percentage of votes roughly equaled the percentage of seats granted.

In the official results, the Melanesian Progressive Party obtained one seat at the Éfaté constituency; however, weeks later the Court ordered a recount of the ballots and awarded the disputed seat to the Land and Justice Party.[14]

Constituency Elected Candidate Party Affiliation
Torres (1 seat) Claude Christophe Antoine Emelee VNDP
Banks (1 seat) Jack Wona VNDP
Santo (7 seats) Hosea Ovock Rothul Nevu

Alfred Maoh

Samson Samsen

Gaetan Pikioune

Rick Mahe Tchamako

Edwin Amblus Macreveth

Ronald Warsal Kalmasei








Malo/Aore (1 seat) Havo Molisale NAG
Luganville (2 seats) Seremaia Matai

Marc Ati



Malekula (7 seats) Sato Kilman

Emson Simon

Marcellino Barthemely

Don Ken Stephen

Jerome Ladvaune

Sala John

Graci Chadrack








Ambrym (2 seats) Bruno Leingkone

Albert Abel Williams



Paama (1 seat) Fred William Tasso GJP
Pentecost (4 seats) Silas Bule Melve

Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas

Francois Chani Tabisal

Ham Lini Vanuaroroa





Ambae (3 seats) Jacob Mata

Jay Ngwele

Alickson Vira




Maewo (1 seat) Ian Wilson IND
Epi (2 seats) Isaac Daniel Tongolilu

Seoule Simeon



Tongoa (1 seat) Kalo Pakoa Songi Lano IG
Shepherds (1 seat) Toara Kalo Daniel VGC
Efate (4 seats) Norris Kalmet

Joshua Tafura Kalsakau

Jerry Kanas

Gillion William





Port Vila (6 seats) Kenneth Natapei

Alatoi Ishmael Kalsakau

Ralph Regenvanu

Jean Pierre Nirua

Kalo Seule

Ephraim Kalsakau







Tanna (7 seats) Joe Natuman

Jotham Napat

Bob Loughman

Tom Noam Iouniwan

Nakou Natuman

Johnny Koanapo Rasou

Andrew Solomon Napuat








Southern Islands (1 seat) Tomker Netvunei Naling UMP
Source: Vanuatu Digest

As there was not a clear majority of seats won by a single political party, parliamentarians from eight political parties and independent groups created a coalition to form a government.[15] This coalition called for Charlot Salwai, a francophone, to be elected as Prime Minister on 11 February 2016. The opposition did not oppose this motion and Salwai was elected Prime Minister of Vanuatu by parliamentary vote.[15] He declared his Cabinet the following day.

Portfolio Minister Party
Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Reunification of Movements for Change
Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Trade Joe Natuman Vanua'aku Pati
Minister for Internal Affairs Alfred Maoh Graon mo Jastis Party
Minister for Foreign Affairs Bruno Leingkone National United Party
Minister for Finance Gaetan Pikioune Nagriamel
Minister for Lands Ralph Regenvanu Graon mo Jastis Party
Minister for Public Utilities Jotham Napat Leaders’ Party of Vanuatu
Minister for Justice Ronald Warsal Vanua'aku Pati
Minister for Climate Change Ham Lini National United Party
Minister for Education Jean-Pierre Nirua Independent
Minister for Health Toara Daniel Vanuatu Green Confederation
Minister for Youth and Sport Norris Jack Kalmet Union of Moderate Party
Minister for Agriculture Seremaia Matai Independent
Source: Vanuatu Daily


The convicted parliamentarians are in jail where they are serving terms of three years. Some members have reportedly formed a music group called the Vanuatu Political Croonies.[16]

A by-election was called in June 2016 to elect an MP for the Malo/Aore constituency after the unexpected death of Havo Molisale. Uri Warawara of the Land and Justice Party beat Bani Livo, an independent candidate.[17]

The Electoral Integrity Project, an academic group that aims to quantify the integrity of elections worldwide, studied Vanuatu's 2016 election. By asking experts on Vanuatuan politics to rank the integrity of various electoral issues, the group found that the election was generally fair and just. However, they also suggest in their rankings that voters may have been bribed and that some may have received cash for votes. It was found likely that politicians offered patronage to voters, confirming at least some clientelism in Vanuatuan politics.


  1. ^ Clark, Helen (2015-12-01). "Vanuatu: President Dissolves Parliament". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  2. ^ International, IDEA (2016-01-01). "Electoral System for National Legislature - Vanuatu". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  3. ^ a b Van Trease, Howard (2005-11-01). "The Operation of the single non-transferable vote system in Vanuatu". Commonwealth & Comparative Politics. 43 (3): 296–332. doi:10.1080/14662040500304833. ISSN 1466-2043.
  4. ^ Union, Inter-Parliamentary. "IPU database: VANUATU (Parliament), Last elections". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  5. ^ a b Forsyth, Miranda; Batley, James (2016-07-02). "What the Political Corruption Scandal of 2015 Reveals about Checks and Balances in Vanuatu Governance". The Journal of Pacific History. 51 (3): 255–277. doi:10.1080/00223344.2016.1214247. ISSN 0022-3344.
  6. ^ Republic of Vanuatu IFES
  7. ^ Union, Inter-Parliamentary. "IPU database: VANUATU (Parliament), Electoral system". Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  8. ^ a b Observer Group, Commonwealth (2016-01-22). "Vanuatu General Elections" (PDF). The Commonwealth.
  9. ^ a b c Observer Group, Commonwealth (2016-01-22). "Vanuatu General Elections" (PDF). The Commonwealth.
  10. ^ Saneem, Mohammed (2016-02-18). "The Voting and Counting Process in Vanuatu - 2016 (Snap) General Election". LinkedIn.
  11. ^ "A deeper look at the Vanuatu election". Pacific Institute of Public Policy. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  12. ^ "Official results – 2016 Vanuatu General Election". Vanuatu Digest. 2016-02-01. Retrieved 2017-04-28.
  13. ^ Observer Group, Commonwealth (2016-01-22). "Vanuatu General Elections" (PDF). The Commonwealth.
  14. ^ "One more MP for Vanuatu's GJP". Radio New Zealand. 25 April 2016.
  15. ^ a b Forsyth, Miranda; Batley, James (2016-07-02). "What the Political Corruption Scandal of 2015 Reveals about Checks and Balances in Vanuatu Governance". The Journal of Pacific History. 51 (3): 255–277. doi:10.1080/00223344.2016.1214247. ISSN 0022-3344.
  16. ^ Digest, Vanuatu (2016-01-20). "Convicted MPs launch new musical career on Facebook". Vanuatu Digest. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  17. ^ "Mini-census to take stock of population movements since Cyclone Pam; GJP victorious in Malo/Aore by-election". Vanuatu Digest. 2016-06-30. Retrieved 2017-04-15.