Vanuatu Opposition demands new Speaker

Ishmael Kalsakau and Bob Loughman (July 2021)

A motion of no confidence was lodged and registered Friday by the Vanuatu Opposition bloc, moved by Johnny Koanapo, Member of Parliament for Tanna Constituency, and Malekula MP Gracia Shadrack, to remove the Speaker of Parliament. 

Vanuatu’s opposition leader, Bob Loughman, has filed an urgent court hearing challenging the decision of the Speaker Seoule Simeon last Wednesday to not accept their vote of no confidence.

Last Wednesday, the opposition, in seeking to remove Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau, won 26 votes in the 52-member House, while the government got 23 votes.

There was one abstention, from the speaker; one seat is vacant and one is empty due to that MP getting medical treatment overseas.

Vanuatu’s constitution states that an absolute majority is needed to oust a prime minister and this has been interpreted to mean 27 MPs in the 52-member parliament. Kalsakau said there was legal precedent to support this position.

Kalsakau told RNZ Pacific that the opppostion has been offered the invitation by the speaker to go to court.

“We’ll look forward to what the Supreme Court has to say. I believe, based on the advice that I’ve received, that the case law has been settled.”

The opposition leader, meanwhile, has appealed to church and community leaders to advise their people to remain calm while waiting for the judges to make an assessment.

It is not yet known when the court will consider the matter. The opposition boycotted the continuing parliamentary session last Thursday.