Vanuatu Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau has expressed his confidence in defeating the motion of no confidence against him, scheduled for Friday, 19 May 2023.
In an interview with the Vanuatu Daily Post Tuesday, PM Kalsakau criticised the Opposition for initiating the motion, considering it premature and irresponsible given that he has only been in power for six months.
“I would have thought they would have had a better chance if 12 months down the track we haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “At the present time, it is really premature and irresponsible to bring a motion of no confidence against the government. We have yet to embark on the journey.”
Vanuatu is still in a State of Emergency (SoE) due to the aftermath of Tropical Cyclones (TCs) Judy and Kevin in March. PM Kalsakau emphasised that while Members of Parliament (MPs) have the right to exercise their authority, bringing forward a motion of no confidence at this time is both juvenile and premature, considering the ongoing SoE.
“We are recovering from tropical cyclones, and we need to quickly ensure that our people are restored back to normalcy,” he said.
PM Kalsakau dismissed the reasons cited in the motion of no confidence, deeming them baseless. He said,
“They don’t have any foundation in them at all. It is like looking for red herrings in the deep blue sea”
During the election of the new Prime Minister following the snap elections, former PM Bob Loughman chose not to nominate a candidate after his candidate for the Speaker’s position lost to PM Kalsakau’s candidate, Seoule Simeon, who currently serves as the Speaker of Parliament.
PM Kalsakau pointed out the inconsistency in the Leader of the Opposition’s stance, as he previously indicated that the Opposition would support PM Kalsakau.
“This goes against the Leader of the Opposition’s expression. He indicated that the Opposition will vote in my favor, and he has yet to give a chance to prove myself. Now he is backing a motion of no confidence,” the PM said.
Leader of the Opposition, MP Loughman, along with his Deputy, MP Marc Ati, submitted the motion of no confidence against PM Kalsakau with the required nine signatures of Opposition MPs, as stipulated by the Standing Orders of Parliament during an Ordinary session last Thursday.
If it were an Extraordinary session, they would need 27 signatures.
Over time, the number of Opposition MPs supporting MP Loughman has gradually decreased. During PM Kalsakau’s election as PM, the Opposition enjoyed the support of 22 MPs. However, due to defections of opposition MPs to the government side, the number has dwindled. In the First Extraordinary session of Parliament in March this year, only 19 MPs remained in the Opposition bloc.
During the First Ordinary session this week, two additional MPs, namely William Timakata, the Vanua’aku Pati (VP) MP for Shepherds Islands, and Ulrich Sumptoh, the National United Party (NUP) MP for Port Vila Constituency, defected from Loughman’s camp to join the government side.
Sumptoh, who was elected under the Reunification Movement for Change (RMC) during the snap elections, performed a custom ceremony last Saturday to join the NUP under the leadership of the current Minister of Education, Bruno Leingkone.
With the ongoing defections of MPs from the opposition side, political observers believe it will be challenging for MP Loughman to gain more support. As of Tuesday, 16 May, only eight opposition MPs were in attendance. If Loughman still has the support of 13 MPs, as he did last week, he will require the backing of at least 14 MPs from the government side to successfully pass his motion and elect a new Prime Minister.