[Originally published in the Vanuatu Daily Post’s Weekender Edition.]
September 2nd promises to be a bloody day, in political terms. In Vanuatu’s 9th general election, at least 334 candidates will battle for one of 52 seats in 17 different constituencies. These candidates represent over 30 political parties, many new, some old. They are opposed by the largest contingent of independent candidates ever fielded. Over 80 will run.
Port Vila voters will witness nothing short of a battle royal. Some of the most venerable names in Vanuatu politics, including ex-PMs Natapei and Korman, minister Willy Jimmy and Opposition Leader Moana Carcasses, are facing numerous serious challengers. Among the most notable contenders: Constitutional Lion Silas Hakwa, Leba president Ephraim Kalsakau, firebrand Independent Ralph Regenvanu, backroom veteran Manina Packete and the ever-popular Moses Steven. In all, 46 candidates will duke it out for 6 seats.
While some seats are safer than others, no candidate can rest easy. Nationwide, roughly 8 candidates are fighting for each available spot. Even worse than the battle to be first past the post will be the positively Byzantine post-election horse-trading that ensues. Right now, it’s hard to see how an actual working government will emerge from the carnage.