Freedom in the World
In April 2010, New Zealand judge Nevin Dawson, who had led an investigation into the 2009 death of a detainee in police custody, fled Vanuatu after reportedly receiving death threats from the paramilitary Vanuatu Mobile Force. While Dawson later returned, the government remained silent about the report’s findings and recommendations through year’s end. Prime Minister Edward Natapei failed a vote of confidence in December and was replaced by Sato Kilman.
Vanuatu is an electoral democracy. The constitution provides for parliamentary elections every four years. The prime minister, who appoints his own cabinet, is chosen by the 52-seat unicameral Parliament from among its members. Members of Parliament and the heads of the six provincial governments form an electoral college to select the largely ceremonial president for a five-year term. The National Council of Chiefs works in parallel with the Parliament, exercising authority mainly over language and cultural matters. The 2008 elections were deemed largely credible by international observers despite reports of bribery and fraud.