SYDNEY (Reuters) – Vanuatu’s parliament will elect a new prime minister after the Pacific island nation’s court on Monday dismissed an appeal against a decision that would remove Ishmael Kalsakau from office.
Vanuatu, which is at the center of a strategic rivalry between China and Western countries in the region, has been mired in political uncertainty when opposition leader Bob Loughman filed a no-confidence petition criticizing Kalsakau for actions such as signing a security pact with Australia after his government’s election victory election last year.
The Supreme Court concluded that the opposition parties had won a no-confidence vote against Kalsakau, but the court had stayed the action to have Kalsakau deposed pending an appeal by the Speaker of Parliament.
The appeal was dismissed on Monday, a government spokesman said in a statement on social media. Parliament will again elect a new Prime Minister.
Loughman, who has drawn Vanuatu closer to China as a past prime minister, said the security deal with Australia jeopardizes Vanuatu’s “neutral” status and could jeopardize development aid from China, its largest external creditor.
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The United States and its allies are trying to dissuade the Pacific island nations from establishing security ties with China after the country signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands.
China has deployed police experts to Vanuatu amid the political crisis, and the Vanuatu Police said it will work with “all partners” – Australia, New Zealand and China.
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Michael Perry)
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