PM Charlot Salwai

After a night of high political drama, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has survived the sixth motion of no confidence against him.

With only six months remaining in the life of the current government, it is looking more and more likely that Mr Salwai will be completing an entire four-year.

The road to the next election may prove rocky. Late last night, the Daily Post received a report  from two government sources that yet another motion had been lodged but this has been declared to be untrue by an Opposition MP.

Rumours of a reshuffle also abounded. A VP officer told the Daily Post that the Vanua’aku Pati had lost patience with the Prime Minister's inaction concerning the distribution of roles within the government, which they felt were unfairly weighted toward other parties.

But by late morning yesterday, the crisis was averted, after Mr Salwai reportedly agreed to work with DPM Bob Loughman to address these differences.

Hanging over the entire affair was the spectre of dissolution. In April last year Charlot Salwai told the media that he would prefer to dissolve Parliament than tolerate disunity and dissension in the government ranks.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ralph Regenvanu was asked if there was any truth to reports that the PM was seeking dissolution. He replied, “No.”

Friday morning, the Daily Post received separate confirmations that it was Mr Regenvanu himself who visited the State House in person, and later informed the President’s staff by telephone that the instrument of dissolution would be coming. They never received such documents.

But the Daily Post has seen a Council of Ministers decision, number 115, dated Thursday June 13, 2019, agreeing to dissolve Parliament on Friday 14 June, and agreeing that the Prime Minister should request dissolution following article 28 (3) of the Constitution.

Some social media speculators suggested the act was a bluff. If it was, it had the desired effect.

A government spokesman told the Daily Post yesterday afternoon that there had been no changes in the ministerial ranks, but VP representatives stated clearly that a reshuffle was a condition of continued support for the governing coalition.

Government Public Relations Officer Hilaire Bule expressed frustration at the cost to the nation of these motions. Several bills were withdrawn on Thursday, he said, because of the uncertainty created by the motion. He accused the Opposition of wasting public money in their fruitless pursuit of power. 

The Daily Post was unable to confirm by press time how many bills were withdrawn, but the supplementary budget of VT 6.4 billion was passed. The Opposition has accused Mr Salwai of running the most expensive government in the history of the republic. Spending in 2019 is substantially higher than ever before. 

With the supplementary spending included, spending in 2019 will be more than twice the amount spent in 2014.

As often happens in Vanuatu, the situation remained fluid until only hours before the motion was set to be debated. Rumours were rife and often conflicting. Only hours before the reconciliation was announced, reports from both camps indicated that the outcome was close, with only one or two votes needed to shift the balance.

By 11:00, though, Jean-Claude Emelee (first political advisor to MIPU Minister Christophe Emelee) uploaded a video to social media, showing Bob Loughman and Charlot Salwai standing side by side with the rest of the cabinet around them, drinking a ceremonial shell of kava to seal their continued resolve.

"Experience and maturity." Mr Emelee wrote. "Today our leaders came together to show solidarity before the upcoming motion."

The motion was withdrawn shortly afterward. 

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