22 Sep 2008

Vanuatu elects Vanua'aku Pati's Edward Natapei new Prime Minister

7:48 pm on 22 September 2008

The leader of Vanuatu's oldest political party, the Vanua'aku Pati, has been elected the country's new Prime Minister.

Edward Natapei's election as Prime Minister for a second time ends weeks of speculation over what shape government would take following general elections almost three weeks ago.

The speculation centred on intense lobbying between two rival groupings, Mr Natapei's and one led by the leader of the Vanuatu Republican Party, Maxime Carlot Korman.

Now, with 11 MPs, Mr Natapei's Vanua'aku Party will lead a coalition with its partner of the past four years, the National United Party and a number of independents and smaller parties.

Our correspondent in Port Vila, Len Garae, says the whole country was waiting in suspense to see who the new Prime Minister would be.

"He was voted in by 28 votes, and Maxime Carlot Korman came behind with 24 votes. The National United Party, and the Vanua'aku Party and one or two parties along with independents have made it to 28"

Meanwhile, George Wells has been elected as the new speaker of Vanuatu's parliament.

Ham Lini, who like Mr Wells is from the Natinal UNited Party or NUP, has been appointed the deputy Prime Minister.

NUP and Vanua'aku Pati were the leading coalition partners under the Ham Lini-led government which ruled since 2004 until the recent elections.