Asia

Vanuatu snap election after MPs jailed

Vanuatu President Baldwin Lonsdale speaks at a press conference at Vanuatu International Airport after arriving home from Japan on 17 March 2015, after Cyclone Pam ripped through the island nation. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Vanuatu president Baldwin Lonsdale dissolved parliament in November

The island nation of Vanuatu is holding snap elections for a new parliament, after half of the ruling coalition's MPs were jailed for corruption.

The 14 MPs had to resign their seats after losing appeals against the convictions in October.

In late November, President Baldwin Lonsdale dissolved parliament when it failed to form a unity government.

But the head of the electoral commission has warned there was not enough time to prepare for the vote.

John Killion Taleo told AFP they were using an electoral roll from July 2015, which was not up to date.

There are concerns that deceased voters have not been removed, and that many young voters who have since turned 18 - the voting age in Vanuatu - will not be able to take part in the polls.

A total of 263 candidates are standing for 53 parliamentary seats.

Transport issues

Former Solomon Islands prime minister Sir Francis Billy Hilly, who is leading a group of foreign election observers, also told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that they faced challenges in flying to remote polling stations.

Air Vanuatu has reportedly cancelled some domestic flights due to engine problems.

Vanuatu has seen political instability in recent years with several changes of prime ministers.

Last year, the 14 MPs were convicted of bribery while the president was abroad.

In his absence, then-parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite was the acting president, and he used his powers to pardon himself and the others.

On his return, Mr Lonsdale overturned the pardons. The Supreme Court later ruled the pardons had been unconstitutional.

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