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Vanuatu lawmakers elect Natapei

world Updated: Sep 22, 2008 16:44 IST

Vanuatu's Parliament elected Edward Natapei as the South Pacific nation's new prime minister on Monday with a slim two-vote majority following Sept. 2 general elections.

Natapei, who was also prime minister in 2001-2004, received 27 of the 52 votes in Parliament to win his second term. Natapei's leading opponent, Maxime Carlot Korman of the Vanuatu Republic Party, received 25 votes.

The new coalition government is made up of Natapei's Vanuaku Pati, the National United Party led by former Prime Minister Ham Lini and a number of independent lawmakers.

Former Foreign Minister George Wells of the National United Party was elected speaker of Parliament.

Lini failed in his bid to win another term as prime minister after his party suffered sharp losses in the general elections. Lini took power in December 2004 after his predecessor, Serge Vohor, was forced to resign after just months in office over a diplomatic recognition deal he signed with Taiwan. Lini restored Vanuatu's recognition of the Beijing government.

In a brief speech on Monday, Natapei pledged to continue the policies of Lini's government.

He said stability, open government, fighting corruption and pursuinig good governance would be key policies.

The Vanuaku Pati, or Our Land Party, formed in the 1970s, championed the end of joint French and British colonial rule in the mainly Christian, 83-island archipelago.