12 Jul 2004

Destruction of ballot boxes in Vanuatu could lead to a by-election

4:07 pm on 12 July 2004

The destruction of a number of ballot boxes by an angry mob in Vanuatu following the general election, has raised the prospect that there may have to be a by-election.

A large number of uncounted votes were destroyed during the incident on Friday.

Our correspondent, Len Garae, says it happened when police carrying votes for counting were confronted by an angry crowd on Tanna.

"A large number of people who were frustrated that the votings they believed had been rigged so they stopped the police, took the ballot boxes off the police. And the police were outnumbered, and they destroyed a number of those ballot boxes and burnt the contents of the ballot boxes."

Len Garae says it appears it was a spontaneous action by supporters of the Vanu'aku party after a party member, Jimmy Mikulin, voiced concern about its poor showing.

However, he says Mr Mikulin has condemned the action.

He says armed police had to be sent from Port Vila to quell the mob, and 12 people are in custody.

Official results have not yet been released by the Electoral Commission, but unofficial results indicate Willie Jimmy's National United Party won ten of the 52 seats and is confident it can form a coalition.

However with nine parties holding 43 seats between them and nine independents, the situation remains fluid.