The very first election results are starting to trickle in. They’re very preliminary, incomplete and subject to change.
This is gossip, not reporting.
Final Update: Okay, it’s time to call it a day on this thread. I’ve been cross-referencing sources all over town, and the only thing that’s clear is that nothing is clear. The electoral office is not releasing numbers, and until they do there’s just too much inaccuracy – some of it certainly agenda-driven – to rely on at all. I won’t suggest you completely disregard what lies below; just take it all with a bucketful of salt.
(Update: Note that this page seems to contradict the previous.
Ralph’s site was down just a little while ago, so they might have reverted to an earlier version to get the site back online. One source told me that they kept updating until late into the night, but ultimately left off. I take this to mean that his site is not at all accurate at the moment. Only goes to show that everything we say about the results at this stage is nearly pure speculation.)
(‘Nother update: I’ve talked to a few more people, and
though minor details vary, the numbers in the first link appear to be indicative of the situation, if not perfect in detail. Candidate names, as compared with three other sources, seem to be more or less correct, and increasingly complete. Just got feedback from someone who’s a bit of an authority on this stuff, and apparently there are some significant discrepancies in the list above. Unfortunately, there is no canonical site for this, and little authoritative information online anywhere. That doesn’t change much of the prognostication below, however.)
(September 4, 08:00: Updated yet again to reflect new information and comments below.)
As the passing of a single day has shown, it’s remarkably easy to be wrong about even larger details. This article is starting to look like wikipedia in the middle of an edit war, but I’ll not be removing details, no matter how embarrassing to me. I feel that this is the best testament to the fluidity of the situation, and perhaps the most persuasive argument possible for greater transparency and information sharing.
My back-of-the-napkin analysis is getting rather long-winded, but I’m not (yet) willing to split it out into separate posts, so I’ll push it below a cut. Many more details follow….
Perhaps most interesting is Ralph Regenvanu‘s significant victory. If the linked numbers are correct (and that’s increasingly likely) he’s won more votes in Port Vila than any other candidate in several election cycles (some say ever).
Update: This morning’s Daily Post is suggesting that Ralph’s vote count will likely come close to 2000. If that’s correct, it makes his election not only a landslide, but a strong argument for broad-based, populist political campaigns.
Consensus seems to be that this is a historic, record-setting win. No exit polling is done here, so it’s impossible to develop those lovely demographic crosstabs that pundits so love. Informal commentary seems to indicate, though, that Ralph has scored well across all polling stations. I’d love to know how many new voters figure in this number. Unfortunately, we’ll only ever have anecdotal data to work with on this count.
The question for historians is: Does this mark the rise of a popular candidate, or the start of a popular movement, or both?
Unless something else comes up before my deadline, this will be the top story of the election.
Depending on how some of the older party heavyweights feel about him – and some are really not amused – Ralph might well find himself with a hand on the balance of power.
This might serve as a useful counterweight to Korman and his colleagues if a VP/NUP/VRP coalition (see below) actually eventuates. The problem is that Ralph might simply be seen as too much of a threat to the status quo to be countenanced in a government role.
Also of interest, Abel David has been elected as part of a return-to-kastom movement. I wonder how much his iconic image affected the outcome?
Update: One commentator notes that Abel is the leader of the Vete Land Trust, a Tongoa-based land rights group that has militated strongly in the recent past for recognition of their land claims on Efate, purportedly dating back to the reign of Chief Roy Mata.
Also, ex-Minister of Finance and perennial candidate Willly Jimmy has apparently been unseated. His National United Party ran a second contender beside him in the Port Vila constituency, the ex-Lord Mayor of Port Vila who has until now served as Public Relations Officer for the PMO, chair of the Vanuatu Broadcast and Television Corporation and right-hand man to Ham Lini. It looks like Lini has more or less cemented his position at the head of the party his older brother founded.
This manoeuvre is a trademark example of Vanuatu-style politics. Maintain a friendly, even demure, face at all times, all the while ensuring that circumstances align themselves such that a fortuitous outcome is likely.
(Note that a party running two or more candidates in the same constituency is common practiice here, because there are often multiple seats available. Ham Lini, for example, ran with 3 other NUP contenders on Pentecost island
and all but one were elected. [That doesn’t seem so clear now. Looks like the race is fairly tight for the last spot.])
While there are a number of new faces this time around, it’s interesting to see how many of them are mainstream party operatives. Southern Islanders Harry Iauko and Ture Kailo, both VP candidates, are examples of veterans who have stepped out of the back room and into the front rank. Pakoa Kaltonga, who was instrumental in the breaking of the telecommunications monopoly, also appears to be on the cusp of unseating one of the incumbents in the Efate Rural constituency.
(One commenter below notes that Ture Kailo is not a veteran. It’s true that this is his first run as a candidate. When I used the word veteran, I meant to say that he is no neophyte where politics is concerned. He’s got long experience as Director General of the ministry of Youth Development & Training, and knows his way around, so to speak. A lot of the gossip I heard last night pointed to him being the obvious choice for the Ministry of Education.)
Rough numbers indicate that the top three parties so far are Vanua’ku Pati with
10 9-11 seats, Nasonel Unaeted Pati with 7-8 7-9 and Vanuatu Ripablikan Pati with 7. [Ouch: Republican Party leader Korman seems to have fallen completely from the running in the latest unofficial listing.] Before the election, VP and NUP had a handshake agreement that, should the two achieve 30 seats together, they would form a government, and the party with the most votes would take the Prime Minister’s chair. They’re not close to that number, but some commentators are speculating that the likelihood of a VP/NUP /VRP government (with a sprinkling of independents) is the most likely outcome. Update: If this morning’s numbers are right, Korman’s fall is a pretty big story. This might be read as an indication of a fairly strong desire for change throughout the electorate.
Update: Even before these results came out, one person that I spoke with suggested that there were other recipes available than the
patently incorrect one I speculated about above. It appears that VP and NUP will have the numbers needed to make up the core of a multi-party coalition, and some of the players present for some or all of the last three years will likely be coming back for a second go-round. I’ve heard some people express cautious optimism that it is at least possible to envision a stable government with a better selection of competent and ethical MPs for cabinet posts.
Maintaining cohesion between VP and NUP has in recent years been an increasingly simple task. Willy Jimmy’s exit is likely to make the job even easier. VRP leadership is a different kettle of fish, if history is any indicator, but if leader Maxime Carlot Korman is given a plum similar to his last portfolio, he’d have more reason to stay than to go. Add an Independent or two to keep the outliers honest, and we just might see a fairly workable arrangement.
This scenario leaves Greens leader Moana Carcasses and UMP’s Serge Vohor to fight it out for leader of the Opposition, but doesn’t offer much of a prospect for either of them to sit on the government side of the House. Moana’s dynamic, charismatic leadership style doesn’t mesh well with traditional Vanuatu attitudes, and Serge’s turbulent months in the PM’s chair shortly after the 2004 election will not soon be forgotten. China in particular is not likely to quickly forgive Vohor’s physical assault on their Ambassador. [One commenter below suggests that I characterise it as an ‘alleged’ assault. Apprently, there’s still some dispute as to whether the attack ever happened.]
Update: Some have suggested that Ralph Regenvanu would positively shine as the most competent and dynamic member of a rump opposition.
That said, prognostication in Vanuatu is a great way to make a fool of oneself. I hope the innumerable edits have amply demonstrated that. There are innumerable variables feeding into these equations, making the process inscrutable to even those closest to it. I, poor amateur that I am, reserve the right to be dead wrong in every respect.