By Samisoni Pareti
Tuvalu’s new prime minister Kausea Natano is expected to name a strong cabinet lineup after defeating the incumbent Enele Sopoaga in the election for the top job in the island parliament today.
Natano won 10 votes to Sopoaga’s six in a secret ballot that was presided over by Tuvalu’s acting Governor General Teniku Talesi.
Parliament is now expected to reconvene tomorrow to select a new parliamentary speaker.
PM Natano’s camp is nominating Sam P Teo, one of the two parliamentary representatives of Niutao island.
Natano himself is from the constituency of Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu, together with fellow MP Simon Kofe.
A masters in law graduate of the University of Malta, Kofe is expected to be named the new minister for justice, communication and foreign affairs.
His name is reportedly in a proposed cabinet lineup list that is making the rounds in the capital.
According to the list, all 10 supporters of Prime Minister Natano will either be in cabinet or be nominated for Speaker.
Another key ally of the new prime minister, Isaia Taape is to become the new minister for health, social welfare and gender affairs.
Taape is also a career civil servant who served as permanent secretary for health before retirement.
A former Tuvalu ambassador to Taiwan, Minute Taupo is expected to be named deputy prime minister, as well as looking after the fisheries and trade portfolios.
Minister of Finance on the other hand is reportedly going to the former Chief Executive of the Oceania Customs Organisation which is headquartered in Suva, Fiji, Seve Paeniu.
He is nephew to a former PM of Tuvalu, Bakenibiu Paeniu.
Under the Tuvalu constitution, the island legislature does not have an official opposition.
The 15 members of parliament, excluding the 16th member who will be elected Speaker, will sit in either the government side or the non-government side.
Now that he’s no longer PM, Sopoaga is relegated to the non-government bench.
His leadership in advocating for climate justice for small island states like Tuvalu had won him much accolades in the world stage, but Islands Business believes voters in Tuvalu have not forgotten the way Sopoaga used the courts to prosecute and jailed his former political opponent, the late Apisai Ielemia.
The man who replaced him today as Prime Minister served as deputy to the late Ielemia when the latter was PM of Tuvalu in 2006 to 2010.
Sopoaga’s many attempts to block the implementation of the recommendations of the country’s constitutional review commission, and his most recent legal fight with the landowners of Funafuti also cost him support for the top job.