The Vanuatu Electoral Commission has hit its worst nightmare as the official results continue to be delayed due to the COVID-19 situation and sadly, the passing of its Electoral Chairman Martin Tete in the early hours today at the Vila Central hospital (VCH).
Tete was reportedly admitted to VCH over the weekend after feeling unwell.
He served the Vanuatu Electoral Office for over a decade. Tete is well-respected for his unimpeachable integrity and is being mourned as died before the official declaration of wining candidates could be made.
He has been an integral part of Vanuatu’s electoral process and his passing will leave a big gap and loss for the country.
The Electoral Office today announced that their office will close until Thursday following the passing of Tete.
Caretaker Minister of Internal Affairs Andrew Napuat said it is a very challenging time for the government and the Ministry he leads: “The global threat in COVID-19 is being managed by the task-force set up by the government.
“Our role regarding elections and the loss of our chairman is to consult the State Law Office to advise us on the legal provisions that we should follow in such situations to ensure we publish the results as required by law.”
Meanwhile, as Vanuatu remains alert over the COVID-19 situation the transportation of ballot boxes from outer islands coming into Port Vila were monitored strictly over COVID-19 fears.
A patrol boat from the Solomon Islands that was in Vanuatu to help with the election has reportedly been isolated with all its crews and force members quarantined after returning from Aneiytum island.
They were quarantined including ballot boxes after reports emerged that a tourist who visited the island tested positive on arrival in Australia after visiting the island on Voyager of the Seas cruise ship this month.
Caretaker Minister Napuat urged the people of Vanuatu to remain calm and assured them that his office is doing everything under the law to ensure the results are published as required.
With the unofficial results now up and the advice from the Ministry of Health and Task force team to avoid social gatherings and maintain social distancing, political lobbying might take a new form where political parties and candidates do away with the traditional way of camping to maintain numbers, and instead ‘camp’ electronically through the use of social media.
To date, caretaker PM Charlot Salwai and Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu appear to have held their seats. Regenvanu's Graon Mo Jastis Party has nine seats, the Reunification Movement for Change has eight, the Leaders Party of Vanuatu also has eight seats, and the Vanua'aku Party has six according to the unofficial count.