Was dissolution a last option for the President?

The dissolution has now been officially challenged by the former Opposition MP’s and the case registered on Monday the 1st of December 2015, and the case began by the President not having a lawyer. Well, for starters, that is a shock since when he decided to dissolve parliament he did get legal advice, or didn’t he? A question most of us will never know.

I met with a traveller from USA, a former Judge and lawyer, who asked that his identity not be made known and he provided some insights to what he believe is “a lack of understanding to how the Vanuatu democracy works” We will how ever call him Mr. Denning for the sake of putting a name to an article.

Mr. Denning raised a few points which I felt I should share with all of you as you listen to a schooled mind, you do feel you are understanding where somethings went wrong.


Mr. Denning says “Vanuatu operates under the Westminster system which means the parliament operates as an independent institution and it has it’s own functioning powers and it has powers to make decisions to its own life. Also included in the parliament is the minority government, or minority cabinet or minority parliament, and they are formed in a parliamentary system when a political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament.

He went on to say that for a majority government, “The cabinet was voted in by majority vote and will remain a majority but once they lose their majority they also lose the powers to decide what happens in a democratic state, and that is how the westminster system works” He continued that “Legislation can only be passed with the support of enough other members of the legislature to provide a majority, and whilst a lot of other countries have a lot of chambers, Vanuatu has only one chamber and it is that one chamber that counts”

The term “majority rules” relates to the chamber in parliament which houses the number of MP’s most crucial to the continuance in office of the government. If any government does not have this numbers, they automatically should resign as it is the rules of democracy” says Denning.

“If the Prime Minister resigns on behalf of the Government, the President then invites the person who appears most likely to be able to command the confidence of the House to serve as Prime Minister or to form a government”

Mr. Denning said “under the Westminster system the incumbent Prime Minister at the time of his or her resignation may also be asked by the President for a recommendation on who can best command the confidence of the members of Parliament to form a new government”

Another thing worth noting is that under the westminster system “an incumbent government is entitled to wait until the new Parliament has met to see if it can command the confidence of the House” but he continued, “is expected that the PM resigns if it becomes clear that it is unlikely to be able to command that confidence”

“The current system allows the President to ask the leaders of each side to form a Government, and it also allows the president, to ask the Prime Minister to resign should there be an impasse. I am not sure if the President has discretional powers but if the President can dissolve Parliament, he can also ask for the prime Minister to resign as it is also another form of dissolution”

“If the Prime Minister authorises a dissolution, it must be focused on providing an equal basis to all the parties who have elected members. Any dissolution must be fairly just to the sense that all the party’s that do have MP’s active in parliament do have a say in the matter, and that is why they get elected, to be part of the decision making, and at most times this is done through voting in parliament”

We will continue with Mr. Denning in the coming week.