Health Checks Proposed For Vanuatu Political Hopefuls

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Electoral Commission ‘concerned’ about costs for by-elections

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Jan. 3, 2014) – The Electoral Commission in Vanuatu wants the country's political candidates of the future to undergo medical checks, because of the rising number of by-elections caused by MPs dying in office.

The government is struggling to find funds for yet another by-election after the Internal Affairs Minister, Patrick Crowby, died at the end of December.

Chairman of the Electoral Commission, John Taleo, says it's very, very concerned about the need for a health requirement, as it is very hard to locate the money required to fund an election after the death of an MP.

"It's costing government a lot of money which is why we want to change the law so that in future political candidates will have to undergo medical checks, and importantly those medical checks have to be done in Australia," said Mr Taleo.

As a group, politicians are affected just as much as any other in Vanuatu by diabetes and high blood pressure, two of the biggest health problems in the Pacific.

"It's a person's constitutional right to stand for elections, even if they are sick or disabled, said Mr Taleo, "but we have to be very careful."

"It took us three months to secure the budget for the last by-election.

"We managed to get through but cash flow for the government is very tight."

The commission chairman concedes that medical testing in Australia will be very expensive but he says there is no choice.

"A lot of medical testing, particular blood tests, is already being done outside the country.

"We need to get this law passed soon, because we have no powers to impose medical checks on sitting MPs.

"Elected representatives have to be very fit to do the job. The affairs of the country have to be healthy and you need healthy people to ensure that is the case."

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