New voters to miss out in Vanuatu snap election

 20 Jan 2016 - 10:13

New voters to miss out in Vanuatu snap election
File picture for representation only


Wellington: The Pacific island nation of Vanuatu goes to the polls Friday despite thousands of newly eligible voters being unable to cast a ballot in the snap election called after a corruption scandal rocked the government.

A lack of time since the vote was called in late November meant the electoral rolls could not be updated, Electoral Commission chairman John Killion Taleo, told AFP Wednesday.

Radio New Zealand reported Wednesday more than 3,000 young people were not on the electoral roll.

Only the 200,159 people on the electoral roll last July will be allowed to cast a ballot.

The 52-member parliament was dissolved in late November by President Baldwin Lonsdale after 14 lawmakers were jailed for bribery in the impoverished Pacific archipelago. 

The political breakdown in Port Vila follows a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years. 

"This is a significant election for the people of Vanuatu in view of recent developments and the constant political challenges in the country," Hubert Ingraham, who is chairing a Commonwealth observer group at the election, said Wednesday. 

Ingraham, a former prime minister of The Bahamas, urged the people of Vanuatu to "exercise their right to vote".

However, Taleo told AFP people who have reached the voting age of 18 since July were still not on the roll. 

"We did not have enough time to prepare," he said. 

"The electoral roll established in July 2015 is the roll we are using for the snap election."

He did not say how many people would miss out.

The US Central Intelligence Agency estimated the population at 272,264 last year.

The constitutional crisis erupted last year when the 14 lawmakers were convicted on bribery charges and hastily tried to pardon themselves. 

Lonsdale was overseas at the time and restored the convictions on his return, vowing "to clean up the mess". 

The original bribery allegations centred on payments of 35 million vatu (US$312,000) made by Deputy Prime Minister Moana Carcasses to 13 other politicians last year while they were all in opposition. 

Vanuatu, which gained independence in 1980, is still recovering from a deadly category five storm last March that destroyed homes and crops and contaminated water supplies.