VANUATU VOTE RECOUNT GIVES UMP EDGE OVER VP

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PORT VILA, Vanuatu (May 23, 2002 – Radio New Zealand International)--Revised election results in Vanuatu show that the Union of Moderate Parties has emerged as the most successful party, nearly doubling its MPs from the previous poll in 1998.

After a recount of two Espiritu Santo constituencies, the Electoral Commission announced that the UMP now has 15 seats, up one, while the Vanua‘aku Pati will have 14 members in the new 52-seat Parliament.

The two parties have already announced plans to continue a coalition formed a year ago, but there is confusion about who will lead it.

There is also confusion about whom the independents in the house support.

The Vanua‘aku Pati has expressed confidence that its leader, Edward Natapei, will remain Prime Minister, but as Port Vila based journalist Ben Bohane says, there are doubts that the UMP leader, Serge Vohor, will be willing to play second fiddle to Mr. Natapei.

"The question becomes whether he will use the option to become prime minister himself or whether he may use the additional power that he has.

"Since the UMP is now in a position to control what government gets formed, he may now instead put his power into making sure that the UMP has control of the more powerful portfolios," journalist Bohane says.

The Prime Minister will be chosen when Parliament meets early next month.

For additional reports from Radio New Zealand International, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio New Zealand International.

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