THE NEXT QUESTION IS: CAN VANUATU PM NATAPEI SURVIVE?

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By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (April 18, 2001 - Port Vila Presse/PINA Nius Online)---One of the key questions for new Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei is: Can his government stay in power until the general elections in March?

Already there are rumors in Port Vila of another no confidence motion, and also of offers being made to woo away numbers from Mr. Natapei's two seat majority.

Speculation about no confidence motions is never treated lightly in Port Vila.

In September of 1991, the Father of Vanuatu Independence, Father Walter Lini, was toppled from power through a motion of no confidence after he had ruled for 11 years.

They have since become a regular weapon of those who want to be in the seats of power.

Mr. Natapei became Vanuatu's third Prime Minister in just three years immediately after the government of Barak Tame Sope was ousted in the Good Friday motion of no confidence.

Mr. Natapei, who is also the president of the Vanua'aku Pati, commands the support of 27 members of the 52-seat parliament.

The Vanu'aku Pati is in coalition with the Union of Moderate Parties of Santo MP Serge Vohor, whose switch of sides ended Mr. Sope's majority.

The Memorandum of Understanding the Vanua'aku Pati signed with the Union of Moderate Parties says the position of Speaker should be given to the Vanua'aku Pati.

If that clause is followed, Mr. Natapei will have one MP less since current Speaker Paul Ren Tari is a National United Party MP.

The National United Party, Melanesian Progressive Party, Vanuatu Republican Party and Green Party are all currently in the Opposition.

The composition of Mr. Natapei's coalition Cabinet is:

UMP President Vohor is Deputy Prime Minister;

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

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