Lydia Lewis, and Hilaire Bule
Ishmael Kalsakau has been elected unopposed as the 13th Prime Minister of Vanuatu by secret ballot.
Kalsakau was elected by the 52 members of the country’s parliament on Friday November 4.
“Thank you, thank you for the election,” Kalsakau said after the vote.
The former prime minister and president of the Vanua’aku Party, Bob Loughman, stood up at the session and said his group had no candidate to put forward for prime minister but would vote for Kalsakau.
Under the national constitution, a prime minister must be elected by a secret ballot even if standing unopposed.
Kalsakau was elected by 50 votes, with two invalid votes.
At the time of his election the new coalition government led by Kalsakau was composed of eight political parties and no independents.
About the new PM
Ishmael Kalsakau was deputy prime minister in the previous government.
Kalsakau is a lawyer by profession. Before his involvement in politics he served as the Attorney-General of Vanuatu.
He originates from a small island in Port Vila Harbor, Ifira, and went to Malapoa College.
Kalsakau is the younger brother of the Paramount Chief of Ifira, Matoi Kalsakau.
He is not the first prime minister from Ifira – that honour is held by Barak Sope who was leader from 1999 to 2001.
Kalsakau and his soon to be formed cabinet step into their roles at a crucial time for Vanuatu as the tourism dependent country emerges from the pandemic.
His priorities will be spelt out when the government is fully cloaked, he said in an interview following the first session of parliament.
Vanuatu PM Bob Loughman speaks during independence celebrations Photo: RNZ Pacific / Hilaire Bule
First session of parliament
Elected representatives from both camps emerged from coalition talks to take their oaths at the first parliamentary session.
It follows last month’s snap election which was triggered by the dissolution of parliament on August 18 on the eve of a vote of no confidence in the former prime minister Bob Loughman led by former opposition leader Ralph Regenvanu.
In the lead-up to the sitting, Regenvanu’s camp had strong numbers, with 30 MPs on his side.
But before stepping foot in parliament the consensus was that Ishmael Kalsakau be put up to lead the government, Vanuatu Broadcasting Corporation senior journalist Simo Warijo said.
On the floor, empty seats were noticeable on Loughman’s side.
Despite Kalsakau’s landslide victory, Loughman walked into parliament with 22 people in his camp.
Ishmael Kalaskau is the leader of the Union of Moderate Parties and secured seven seats in the snap election, equal highest with Loughman’s Vanua’aku Pati.
In comparison, Ralph Regenvanu’s Graon mo Jastis Pati only managed to secure four seats.
Vanuatu’s only Woman MP Gloria Julia King takes her oath in parliament. November 2022 Photo: VBTC
MP King takes oath
Rapturous applause filled the house on Friday morning as Gloria Julia King, the only woman MP to be elected to Vanuatu’s parliament since 2008, stepped up to take the first oath.
“I King Gloria Julia, having been elected member of parliament, do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the republic of Vanuatu.”
King has also been appointed third Deputy Speaker, a significant role for a first-time MP.
The former Speaker of Vanuatu’s parliament, Seoule Simeon, has been re-elected by the new MPs.
He is the MP for Epi constituency and was nominated by Bob Loughman’s coalition.
His contender for the job was MP for Port Vila constituency Ulrick Sumpton who was nominated by former opposition leader, Ralph Regenvanu’s camp.