OUSTED TUVALU PRIME MINISTER BUYS TIME

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Aug. 29) – The former Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Saufatu Sopoaga, has delayed elections for his post by resigning as a member of parliament.

Mr Sopoaga was ousted by a vote of no confidence last week after a government member crossed the floor to boost opposition numbers.

A member of government was overseas seeking medical treatment at the time.

A secret ballot to elect a new prime minister was scheduled for the weekend but it could not be held after Mr Sopoaga’s resignation because a by-election for his seat must be held first.

Mr Sopoaga, who had been acting in a caretaker capacity since Wednesday, says he will stand in the by-election and in the prime minister ballot if successful.

He says his resignation was done to give him time to garner support.

"It is to allow time for the two sides to reflect on the arrangements, particularly the government side to reconsolidate again."

Maatia Toafa, the former Deputy Prime Minister, is now caretaker prime minister until the by-election, which is expected to take place in two to three months.

August 30, 2004

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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