WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Oct. 31) - Vanuatu’s Electoral Office has confirmed that former prime minister and convicted felon Barak Sope has been cleared to run in next month’s by-election on the main island of Efate.

The seat, vacated by Mr Sope after he was jailed for fraud, will also be contested by the Vanuaku Pati’s Foster Rakom, Jack Kalon of the National Community Association, and independent candidate Roro Sambo.

The president pardoned Mr Sope last November, only months after he began serving his three-year sentence, citing health problems.

Sope has since argued that the pardon clears his record and allows him to return to elected office.

There was some doubt over the legality of Mr Sope contesting the election but the Chief Electoral Officer Martin Tete says the Melanesian Progressive Party candidate is in the clear.

"Actually, I have written to the Attorney General to give his legal view on his submission and I have received a note from the Attorney General saying that he can contest the election."

October 31, 2003

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