Vanuatu opposition buy-in sought for constitutional changes
Vanuatu's government says all efforts will be made to get the opposition's support for major constitutional amendments which are seen as essential if the country is to address its problems of political instability.
A senior Vanuatu government minister says all efforts will be made to get the opposition's support for major constitutional amendments.
The amendments include regulation of political parties and candidates, as well as creating reserved parliamentary seats for women, and changes affecting the way parliament is run.
The amendments had been due to go before parliament this month but now look set to be further negotiated at the committee level, after the opposition decided to boycott parliament last week in protest.
Major constitutional amendments would have to go to a public referendum.
The Lands Minister Ralph Regenvanu says the government doesn't want to go to a referendum with the opposition being opposed to the amendments.
RALPH REGENVANU: Because they'll be misleading people a lot and getting them to vote against them. We can't afford [that] so we're not going to pass any amendments unless we have the full support of all of parliament, and if that requires us to put the bill to a parliamentary committee first before the second reading, we will do that. It looks like we will probably do that. We've already made some changes to it and on Thursday we'll probably refer it to a committee so they can go through it before we proceed with the final passage of the bill.
JOHNNY BLADES: So this includes some of the major ones like around the integrity of political parties sort of regulating that movement and reserved seats for women, I suppose?
RR: Yeah all of that normal stuff that we all know about and interestingly, when the president opened parliament this morning he basically said all this stuff like 'you have to do this, you have to do this for instability and stuff' and that's exactly what we are doing with the constitutional amendments.
JB: When you say you want to get everyone on board in the parliament before it goes to a referendum, how can you be sure that the opposition won't just try and frustrate the process for you?
RR: The leader of the opposition was on the taskforce that I was chairing and has not gone against them, so basically we're going to try and force the issue and make them be involved in the whole thing so we'll try and see how we can do that. They have to come to the table, they have to participate, they can't say they oppose it or whatever and try and get rid of all the arguments they have to say they can't support it, basically.
JB: What about the reserved seats for women? That will need quite some negotiation won't it I guess.
RR: Yeah, I mean that's a good example. I mean, they came out very clearly against that so if means compromise we'll take it off the table if it gets political stability.
JB: Because it's more important to address the sort of party-hopping stuff, the stuff that's hampered the parliament....
RR: The essential stuff, yeah. We can take out everything else except that, for example.
JB: You mean stuff like providing for the independence of certain key public appointments. That was part of the package as well. That's not essential?
RR: That's part of the whole political reform for stability thing. We consider that essential because if you're going to increase the power of the executive you've got to have more checks and balances which is why you've got to maintain the independence of the speaker, independence of the auditor general.
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