What the Political Corruption Scandal of 2015 Reveals about Checks and Balances in Vanuatu Governance

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    A series of dramatic events occurred in Vanuatu in late 2015 involving the conviction of 15 MPs for bribery, purported pardons given by the acting president and a contested dissolution of parliament. This paper analyses the significance of these events from both a political and legal perspective, in particular, considering the extent to which they were unprecedented and exceptional in terms of Vanuatu's history. Certainly, the trial and conviction of almost 30 per cent of Vanuatu's parliament sets a new standard not only for Vanuatu and the rest of the Pacific, but quite possibly globally as well. The outcome of the various legal processes resulted in the first ever convictions under Vanuatu's Leadership Code Act, setting an important precedent for more active use of this legislation in future. Politically, however, these events were by no means the most serious of the numerous dramas that have characterised Vanuatu's history since independence. Indeed, the events of 2015 underline that constitutional power is distributed and exercised reasonably broadly in Vanuatu with the president, the speaker of parliament and especially the court system all playing key roles, alongside prime ministers and opposition leaders, in the outcomes of political contestation. While we have no wish to downplay the seriousness of such a large number of convictions, the events of 2015 nevertheless suggest a degree of underlying strength and resilience in Vanuatu's governance framework.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)255-277pp
    JournalJournal of Pacific History
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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