Constitutional Bill Withdrawn

Parliament convened yesterday afternoon to debate theBill for the Constitution (Eight) (Amendment) but it was short-lived after the leader of government business, MP William Gillion withdrew the bill.

An amendment to the Constitution requires the support of 39 Members of Parliament but yesterday the government side had only 28 MPs while the Opposition had 22 MPs.

Article 85 of the Constitution states: “A bill for an amendment of the Constitution shall not come into effect unless it is supported by the votes of no less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament at a special sitting of Parliament at which three-quarters of the members are present. If there is no such quorum at the first sitting, Parliament may meet and make a decision by the same majority a week later even if only two-thirds of the members are present.”

The special parliament sitting was initially called last week on Wednesday and it was boycotted by the Opposition.

Vanuatu Nightly News received reports that this bill needs more consultation.

The Bill for the Constitution (Eight) (Amendment) seeks to modify subarticle 4(3) which provides for political parties to be formed freely and contest elections. 

The government wants to amend it by deleting “Political parties” and substituting it with “Subject to any restrictions imposed by Parliament, political parties”.

All political parties intending to field candidates in an election to Parliament will be required to register as a political party, in accordance with the procedures and criteria under that bill.

The government notes the fragmentation of political parties and the complete lack of guidelines for the formation of operation of political parties over the last two decades is one of the key factors contributing to political instability. 

According to the Prime Minister’s explanatory note on the bill, in order to bring stability back into the formation and operation of governments and improving the overall governance of the country, a legal and constitutional framework that ensures a strong sustainable political party system is required and the introduction of the political party legislation is a necessity to achieving such a strong sustainable political party system.

Newly elected Speaker of Parliament, Seule Simeon, closed the special sitting and the First Extraordinary Session of Parliament.

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