Freedom in the World
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Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
In 2009, bitter political rivalries resulted in failed opposition-led votes of no confidence against Prime Minister Edward Natapei, who was also briefly stripped of his seat in parliament and position as prime minister in November. In September, Iolu Abil was chosen as Vanuatu’s new president. Meanwhile, Viran Molisa Trief was appointed the country’s first female solicitor general in March.
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 the 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.
Local traditions are frequently sources of discrimination against women. There are only two women in parliament. In March 2009, the government appointed Viran Molisa Trief as the first female solicitor general. Spousal rape is not a crime, and no law prohibits domestic abuse or sexual harassment, which women’s groups claim are common and increasing. Most cases go unreported due to victims’ fear of reprisal or family pressure, and the police and courts rarely intervene or impose strong punishments on offenders. The traditional practice of “bride payment,” or dowry, remains common. Vanuatu is a transit point for victims trafficked for prostitution and labor.