HIGH FEES COULD CAUSE ELECTION BOYCOTT IN VANUATU

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By Wilson Toa

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (September 14, 2000 - Vanuatu Weekly/PINA Nius Online)---The newly elected president of the National United Party (NUP) Dinh Van Than has threatened to call for a boycott of the Provincial Elections if the fee of VT100,000 (US$712) remain unchanged.

Speaking to Vanuatu Weekly News, Mr. Dinh said: "If things comes to worst and the Electoral Commission refuse to reduce the candidates fee from VT 100,000, I will meet with leaders of the political parties in the country to boycott the coming Provincial Election."

His statement came after the Electoral Commission reported on Radio Vanuatu that it would stand by its decision of VT100,000 fee for each candidate who wish to contest the Provincial Election next month.

The Electoral Office has reiterated that the VT100,000 fee endorsed by the Minister of Internal Affairs remains as it is until the commission decides otherwise.

The Prime Minister, shortly after the announcement of the increased fee, told a Presbyterian assembly that his government has reduced the candidate fee to VT15,000 (US$106) following numerous complaints from political parties.

According to the Electoral Commission any objection to the increased fee could only be challenged in court or parliament through amendment of certain acts.

Mr. Dinh said, political parties should not be blamed if the Electoral Office does not have the money to run the provincial election.

"The Government should be held responsible for such a problem face by the Electoral Commission," stressed Mr. Dinh.

Mr. Than pointed out that such a fee by the Electoral Commission will allow only people who have money to be able to stand as a candidate.

"Where is the Good Governance, Transparency and Democracy that the Government is always talking about. It seems that the Government wants only the rich people to stand up as a candidate," said Mr. Dinh.

The General Secretary of the National United Party, Patrick Crowby, also came out to say that NUP is very surprise to hear that the electoral Commission is still standing to its decision of 100,000 Vatu fee for a Candidate.

"I am surprised to learn about the stand of the Electoral Commission after the Prime Minister Barak Tame Sope Maau Tamate announced at the Annual General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church on Aneitym that the Candidate fee for the Provincial Election has been reduced to VT15,000," explained Mr. Crowby.

The same comment was raised by the Minister responsible, Minister for Internal Affairs Banabas Tabi, who had endorsed the fee on instructions from the commission.

Meanwhile Mr. Crowby has demanded Government to terminate the members of the Electoral Commission on grounds that they have fail to respect the Prime Minister's decision to reduce the fee.

The election for the National United Party executive was not in line with the standing procedure of its constitution because the executive were not elected, but chosen by Mr. Than, the Chairman and spokesman for Pentecost Michael Ture said.

"It was after when Dinh Van Than was nominated as the new president of NUP that he asked the Chairman to pass a resolution to allow the president to appoint his executive members," said Mr. Ture.

Mr. Ture said this took away their democratic right to make a nomination and vote for the executive members.

Mr. Than had appointed as Vice President Ham Lini, who lost the presidency vote to Mr. Than on a close margin of 43 to 47.

Ham Lini is the brother of late Father Walter Lini, Vanuatu's first prime minister. He was seen before the congress as the likely next president of the party.

For additional reports from the Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/ Vanuatu Weekly/Hebdomadaire.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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