In a remarkable turn of events, Vanuatu has witnessed its third change in leadership within just a month. Former Prime Minister Charlot Salwai has been elected as the nation’s leader, following a parliamentary no-confidence motion that removed Sato Kilman from the top job.
This political upheaval began with Kilman’s ascendancy to the position after another no-confidence motion ousted the former leader, Ishmael Kalsakau. However, Kilman’s government faced criticism for pursuing what was described by a prominent Vanuatu MP as “vindictive motions” and for his absence from the United Nations General Assembly.
After Kilman’s government abandoned a parliamentary session in protest, members of parliament voted to elect Charlot Salwai as the new Prime Minister. Speaking after his election, Salwai acknowledged the numerous challenges facing Vanuatu, including recovery efforts from twin cyclones earlier in the year and the prevailing “political instability.”
Salwai also highlighted the need for discussions concerning the nation’s security pact with Australia, a pact that Kilman had expressed intentions to “review.” He emphasized that the decision regarding the security pact would be a collective one made by the parliament.
The new Prime Minister addressed issues related to Air Vanuatu, the national airline, which left hundreds of tourists stranded due to a plane malfunction. He stressed the importance of a stable government and expressed understanding for the frustrations of the Vanuatu population.
Charlot Salwai previously led Vanuatu from 2016 but lost office after the 2020 general election. In 2021, he faced legal issues, being found guilty of perjury and receiving a suspended jail sentence for misleading the Supreme Court about decisions made while in government in 2016.
The political situation in Port Vila remained tense, with heightened security measures in and around the parliamentary compound. The handover of leadership was marked by the return of the prime minister’s car to the parliament building, signifying the transfer of power.
Furthermore, members of Vanuatu’s Chinese embassy were present to extend their congratulations to the new Prime Minister.
Sato Kilman’s leadership, which began just last month, was marred by a diminishing majority as three MPs switched allegiances, causing him to lose his majority. Another MP who supported Kilman lost his seat due to non-attendance at parliament.
This leadership transition occurred despite a late challenge, with the no-confidence vote proceeding on Friday. Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Ralph Regenvanu, criticized Kilman for his brief tenure, attributing his removal to “silly decisions.” Regenvanu had been considered a potential candidate for the top job, but ultimately, Charlot Salwai was elected as Vanuatu’s Prime Minister.