Facts & Figures
President: Baldwin Lonsdale (2014)
Prime Minister: Charlot Salwai (2016)
Total area: 4,710 sq mi (12,200 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 266,937 (growth rate: 2.01%); birth rate: 25.69/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.41/1000; life expectancy: 72.72; density per sq mi: 51
Capital and largest city (2011 est.): Port Vila, 47,000
Monetary unit: Vatu
- Vanuatu Main Page
- Prime Minister's Leadership Challenged in Court
- Lacking a Majority, Prime Minister Kilman Resigns
- Category Five Cyclone Hits Vanuatu
Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands lying between New Caledonia and Fiji in the South Pacific. Largest of the islands is Espiritu Santo (875 sq mi; 2,266 sq km); others are Efate, Malekula, Malo, Pentecost, and Tanna.
Prime Minister's Leadership Challenged in Court
Serge Vohor was elected prime minister in the summer of 2004. His tenure was brief; he was ousted in a vote of no confidence by Parliament in November after a controversial attempt to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan. He was succeeded by Ham Lini. In elections in September 2008, the Vanuaaku Pati, led by Edward Natapei, won the most seats in Parliament. Natapei formed a coalition government and became prime minister. In November 2009, the Speaker of the House stripped Natapei of his seat in Parliament and thus disqualified him to serve as prime minister after Natapei did not show up for three consecutive meetings of Parliament and failed to submit paperwork explaining his absences. However, Vanuatu's chief justice ruled that the move was unconstitutional, and Natapei then survived a no confidence vote and remained in office.
Natapei suffered another test of his leadership when he was ousted in a no-confidence vote in 2010. Sato Kilman, the deputy prime minister, assumed the position. Natapei brought the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled on June 16, 2011, that the election of Sato Kilman was unconstitutional and installed Natapei as acting prime minister.
During Natapei's brief time as prime minister, he cancelled diplomatic recognition of Abkhazia, an order that Kilman had issued during his short period in charge. Then on June 26, 2011, Natapei's interim as prime minister ended. Parliament elected Sato Kilman as prime minister.
Lacking a Majority, Prime Minister Kilman Resigns
On March 21, 2013, Prime Minister Sato Kilman resigned. The previous day, Minister for Ni-Vanuatu Business Marcellino Pipite and Minister of Justice and Social Welfare Thomas Laken joined the Opposition in Parliament. Six government officials followed, leaving Kilman without the needed majority to continue to govern.
Kilman resigned before a no confidence motion was brought against him. He remained in charge of the interim government until his successor was named. On March 23, 2013, Moana Carcasses Kalosil became prime minister. A member of the Green Confederation party, Kalosil was the first naturalized citizen of Vanuatu to become prime minister.
Kalosil lost a no-confidence vote in Vanuatu's parliament by 35-11 votes in May 2014. That same month, Vanua'aku Pati party member Joe Natuman took over as prime minister.
In Sept. 2014, Anglican priest Baldwin Lonsdale was elected president by an electoral college made up of governors and members of parliament. The election was the longest in Vanuatu's history, lasting eight rounds before a candidate had a majority because of the conflict between Prime Minister Natuman's government and the opposition. During the lengthy election process, Philip Boedoro served as the interim president.
Category Five Cyclone Hits Vanuatu
A category five cyclone hits Vanuatu directly on March 14, 2015. Named Tropical Cyclone Pam, the storm carried heavy rainfall and damaging winds as strong as 168 miles per hour. At least 3,300 people sought shelter in 37 evacuation centers.
The following day, an official at the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Cyclone Pam would likely be the South Pacific's worst natural disaster. “At least nine nations have experienced some level of devastation including Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Fiji, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea. Officials have yet to assess the damage in many of the hard-hit outer islands because communications and power remain cut,” the UN official said. As of March 17, the death toll from the cyclone was 11, according to the UN, but the number was expected to rise as the rescue effort continued.
In Feb. 2016, Charlot Salwai was elected prime minister. The head of the Reunification of Movements for Change party, Salwai has previously served as Vanuatu's Minister for Education, Minister for Finance, Minister for Trade, Minister for Lands, and Minister of Internal Affairs.