Vanuatu’s Parliament will convene to elect a new leader after the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier decision that a vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister was valid.
The decision was announced on Monday morning, following a hearing in front of a panel of six judges last Thursday.
The Speaker of Parliament Seoule Simeon lodged the appeal last Monday against the Supreme Court decision that found the Opposition had an absolute majority of 26 votes when it moved to oust Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau.
Vanuatu’s Constitution requires that a motion of no confidence against the Prime Minister be supported by an absolute majority of the Members of Parliament. There are 52 seats in Parliament but only 51 are currently filled, due to a vacancy on the island of Malekula.
A previous court case in 2011 determined that the absolute majority required for a no confidence motion against the prime minister is 27 votes in a Parliament of 52 members, but in August the Supreme Court Justice Edwin Goldsborough ruled that when there are 51 members, only 26 votes were required to constitute an absolute majority.
On 16 August, a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Kalsakau was debated in Parliament. The government had 23 votes and the opposition had 26, but the Speaker of Parliament, acting on advice from the Attorney-General, declared the motion had not been supported by an absolute majority.
Twenty-five members of the opposition, led by former prime minister Bob Loughman, challenged the decision of the Speaker and Attorney-General in court.
In his judgment, Justice Goldsborough determined that the vote of no confidence against Prime Minister Kalsakau had been successful and granted the Opposition’s request that the court order Parliament be convened to elect a new prime minister. However, he put a stay on the order, pending an appeal, which was completed today.
Kalskau will continue on a caretaker basis until Parliament can meet and elect a new prime minister.