Wednesday, 8 April 2009 8:18 AM

The dangers of political party strengtheninglegislation in Solomon Islands1

The Solomon Islands government is
considering introducing laws aimed at
strengthening political parties, restricting
members of parliament (MPs) from switching
sides and halting excessive use of 'no-confidence'
motions. The government wants
to: 1) abolish the constitutional position
of the 'Leader of the Independents';2 2)
reform the process of the selection of prime
ministers; and 3) build a more coherent
party system by adopting legislation similar
to that experimented with in Papua New
Guinea.3 The aim is to increase political
stability and give prime ministers and
cabinets an opportunity to implement their
policies without having to focus continually
on sustaining fragile coalitions, or on
attracting opposition members to cross the
floor to strengthen governments.

Objectives of party integrity

Such laws, sometimes referred to as
political party integrity legislation, can
serve several objectives. Sometimes, the
aim is parliamentary stability, sometimes
nation-building and sometimes the goal
of strengthening parties is driven by the
view that strong political parties are an
inevitable feature of 'proper' democracy
(although ancient Greece, the 'cradle of
democracy', never had political parties and
nor for that matter do many local councils
in the mass democracies of Western Europe
or Australasia).4 Legislation against floorcrossing
has been introduced in many parts
of the Pacific, including in Fiji, New Zealand
and Papua New Guinea. The Samoans have
legal controls on what kinds of new parties
can be formed (So'o and Fraenkel 2005:355).
Even in Tahiti (French Polynesia), frustration
with frequent government changes led
Gaston Flosse to alter the electoral law in
2004, hoping to stabilise the political order
(although the result was a major defeat for
his party). Often, the true objective behind
party integrity legislation is to strengthen
governments, despite the public rationale
being to strengthen political parties.

In several cases, laws against MPs
crossing the floor have been introduced
in the hope of consolidating one political
faction, but have ended up strengthening
another. That is what happened in Papua
New Guinea and Fiji. In Papua New
Guinea, the government of Sir Mekere
Morauta introduced laws binding MPs to
political parties, but Sir Michael Somare
won the 2002 election and his government
proved to be the beneficiary of the new laws. The opposition in Papua New Guinea
stayed away from parliament during
much of the second half of 2004, frustrated
by its inability to challenge the Somare
government. In the wake of the 2007
election, leading figures on the opposition
benches-including New Ireland Governor,
Sir Julius Chan-denounced the Organic
Law on the Integrity of Political Parties
and Candidates (OLIPPAC) legislation as
promoting dictatorship ('Dump law: Chan',
The National, 15 August 2008).

In Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka's government
amended the constitution to prevent floor
crossing in 1997, but Mahendra Chaudhry
won the 1999 election. The new law ensured
that Chaudhry's Fiji Labour Party's 37 seats
in the 71-member parliament formed an
unbreakable majority. The allied parties in
the Labour-led People's Coalition all split,
with the rank and file joining opposition
protests against the government. Within
Labour ranks, Fijian members such as Dr
Tupeni Baba and Kenneth Zinck challenged
the policies being pursued by the Labour
leader. These rebels could not, however,
legally switch sides. A year later, Fiji
witnessed a coup d état.

In other cases, laws binding MPs to
political parties have not worked as intended.
In India, more MPs crossed the floor after
1985 legislation aimed at preventing floor
crossing than beforehand (Indian Advisory
Panel on Electoral Reforms, 2001:24). In
New Zealand, laws against MPs switching
sides simply delayed inevitable political
realignments and political opinion turned
against their continued use (Geddis 2002).
Likewise in Papua New Guinea, when
Treasurer Bart Philemon fell out with his
Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, the
new laws prevented him from founding
the inevitable new political party (the New
Generation Party) until shortly before the
2007 polls. One 2003 survey of the use of
rules against party defections concluded
that, leaving aside a few as yet untested
exceptions, the legislation was 'problematic
at best and unworkable at worst' (Miskin

In Papua New Guinea, the rules against
floor crossing contained in the OLIPPAC
have not yet been fully tested before the
courts. Eleven members broke ranks during
Somare's 2002-07 government, but none lost
their seat. What will happen in Papua New
Guinea when a prime minister finds himself
politically isolated and unpopular? What
will happen if only the law prevents the fall
of such a government? There are plenty
of cases across the Pacific where prime
ministers have shown themselves willing
to exploit every available legal instrument
to avoid the fall of their governments
(consider, for example, then Solomon
Islands Prime Minister Francis Billy Hilly's
attempt to rescue his government in 1994
or Manassah Sogavare's efforts to stave
off impending defeat in late 2007). If laws
are in place protecting prime ministers
against no-confidence votes, will they be
complied with when they are used in such
a transparently self-serving manner? The
former PNG Chief Justice has suggested
that, in such circumstances, the OLIPPAC
could not withstand a constitutional
challenge. The courts may rule the law null
and void because it restrains MPs' freedom
of association or conscience (Personal
communication, Sir Arnold Amet, former
Chief Justice of Papua New Guinea, Honiara,
April 2006). In Vanuatu, then Prime Minister
Serge Vohor passed laws in 2004 providing
a 12-month 'grace period' during which
there could not be a no-confidence motion;
this was, however, ruled unconstitutional by
the courts and the Vohor government was
subsequently toppled.5

Essentials of the OLIPPAC

How does the OLIPPAC work in Papua
New Guinea? First, under the OLIPPAC, the
party with the largest number of seats after
an election receives the initial invitation to
form a government (see Gelu 2005). The law
helped Sir Michael Somare to become Prime
Minister in 2002 and again for a second
time after the July 2007 elections for he was
after both elections the leader of the largest
party (The National Alliance). Second, there
are some rather weak financial incentives
to join parties (and added incentives for
female candidates), disincentives to remain
as independents and rules regarding the
registration of political parties. Third,
and most importantly, MPs in Papua
New Guinea who vote for a particular
prime minister cannot vote against that
prime minister in any vote of confidence,
budgetary vote or vote on constitutional
amendments for the life of the parliament.
There are loopholes. If a party decides
collectively to switch sides-in accordance
with its internal rules and procedures-it
can do so. For that reason, many PNG
politicians constituted themselves as oneman
political parties to retain their freedom
to switch. Others nominally conformed to
the law, if only to reduce the prospect of
judicial intervention. Such responses to
the OLIPPAC legislation indicate another
problem with such provisions: they weaken
the separation of powers and require judges
to adjudicate the internal rules of political
parties6 or to uphold the rules of procedures
of parliament. Historically, the courts
have been reluctant to assume jurisdiction
over the internal affairs of parliament and
have viewed the speaker as the proper
authority for the internal self-regulation of

The other key part of PNG's governmentstrengthening
package is grace periods,
which were introduced separately as part
of the 1975 constitution, and extended in
1991. After an election, a new government
has 18 months during which there cannot be
a no-confidence motion (a provision Somare
in 2004 unsuccessfully attempted to extend
to 36 months). If there is a no-confidence
motion in the last 12 months of the life
of Papua New Guinea's five-year terms,
parliament is dissolved and there is an early
election. Since MPs always wish to prolong
their periods in office, there never has been
a successful no-confidence motion in the
last year of a PNG parliament's term. That
shows one interesting way of maintaining
the safety valve of no-confidence motions,
while ensuring that they are not used in a
frivolous manner or simply to grab hold of
ministerial portfolios or for 'fund-raising'.8
If a no-confidence vote entails a general
dissolution of parliament and an early
election, MPs might take this option only if
they are riding the crest of a wave of popular
dissatisfaction with the government. In
normal circumstances, as PNG history
indicates, they will not want to rock the
boat if that means going back to face the
electorate earlier than normal. Elections
are costly affairs. Between 50 and 75 per
cent of PNG MPs lose their seat at general

The consequences of laws that ensure
that a no-confidence vote entails a general
dissolution of parliament are illustrated
by the Kiribati semi-presidential system.
In Kiribati, the Beretitenti (president)
is directly elected, but he/she forms a
cabinet comprising members of parliament.
Parliament can remove the Beretitenti
through a confidence vote, but if they do
so at any point during the president's term
of office, all members of the Maneaba ni
Maungatabu (parliament) lose their seat. A
president facing a challenge to legislation
that he is pressing through parliament can
also stamp this as raising a question of
confidence, so that if he loses the consequent vote the result is, likewise, a dissolution of
parliament and a fresh general election.9
This institutional set-up is a strong deterrent
to the use of no-confidence motions, but it
is not watertight. On three occasions-in
1982, 1993 and 2003-there were premature
dissolutions of parliament and early
elections. Nevertheless, there has been
considerably greater political stability in
Kiribati than in neighbouring Nauru or
Tuvalu, where it is possible to dislodge a
government without going back to the polls.
Without the dissolution provisions in the
Kiribati Constitution, there is little doubt that
the country would have witnessed far more
regular changes in government.
The impact of the OLIPPAC

What has been the impact of the OLIPPAC
in Papua New Guinea? First, the number
of political parties has risen, not fallen;10 it
has followed a wave-like motion. After the
OLIPPAC, the number of registered parties
rose to 43 in 2002, then fell back as a result
of five amalgamations and de-registration of
fourteen on-paper parties with no seats at
all in 2006 and then rose again to 34 ahead
of the 2007 polls. (Paul Bengo, Registrar of
Political Parties, cite in 'Strict terms set for
new political parties', The National 4 October
2006; see also 'fourteen Political parties
removed from registry,' The National, 25
August 2006. Though different sources cited
different numbers, the wave-like trend both
in registered and parliamentary parties is
clear.) The number of parliamentary parties
after the 2002 elections was 22. The number
fell to around 15 in 2006, largely due to
amalgamations, but then rose to 21 after the
2007 election (Sepoe et al. 2007). Second, no
MP has as yet lost his or her seat due to this
law, although there have been many breaches
of the OLIPPAC. Cases were referred to the
ombudsman, but no action was taken.11
The MPs concerned were all able to retain
their seats, despite the legal position. In
that respect, the law was a paper tiger. If
Somare's government had been about to fall,
however, the pressures to enforce the law
would no doubt have been much greater.
Third, Somare's 2002-07 government was
the first since independence to survive a full
term in office. In that sense, the law brought
'stability'-an achievement much cherished
by PNG reformers. Although the prime
minister did not change through 2002-07,
many of the key ministers changed and there
were frequent associated changes at the top
levels of the public sector. No-confidence
challenges were avoided during Somare's
2002-07 government, not only due to the
18-month grace period and the OLIPPAC
but by suspension of parliament at critical
junctures when opposition forces were
mustering for a challenge, by changes of
ministers and by the drawing of opposition
parties into the governing coalition (Sepoe
et al. 2007:7–8).

There are always dangers associated
with laws aimed at restricting noconfidence
challenges or at binding MPs
to political parties. They can stabilise
popular governments, avoid frivolous noconfidence
motions and permit parliament
to concentrate on law making; however,
they can also remove the ability to dislodge
a corrupt administration or can entrench an
unpopular government. In Solomon Islands
on 18 April 2006, Snyder Rini was elected
prime minister by parliament, behind closed
doors, after an intense period of wheeling
and dealing between rival factions based
at three Chinese-owned Honiara hotels.
Consequent protests outside parliament
culminated in the burning down of much of
Honiara's Chinatown district and involved
attacks on Regional Assistance Mission
to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) vehicles.
Eight days later, Rini resigned to head off
an impending no-confidence vote, leading to jubilation among crowds in Honiara.
If the PNG grace-period legislation had
been in place in Solomon Islands on 18
April, the short-lived Rini-led government
would have had 18 months before it could
have faced a no-confidence challenge,
and the OLIPPAC might have given that
government a full four-year term. With the
people deprived of constitutional means of
dislodging the government, social unrest
might have continued to assume a violent
and destructive form.12 Locking in such a
government would have been an unwise
and dangerous policy choice.

The subsequent government, led by
Manasseh Sogavare, was keen on making
a provision to strengthen governments and
diminish the opportunity for no-confidence
votes. In the period before the fall of the
Rini-led government, Sogavare had proved
able to manoeuvre in such a way as to
become the opposition's candidate for the
prime ministerial post (Fraenkel 2006a). In
the months after Sogavare captured the top
job, several frustrated leaders of the smaller
parties in his Grand Coalition for Change
broke away and joined the opposition.13
Ironically, some, such as Bartholomew
Ulufa'alu and Billy Hilly, had, before the
April polls, been enthusiasts for laws
aimed at tying parliamentarians firmly to
political parties. Had they been successful,
they would have rendered illegal their own
subsequent action. Under Sogavare, steps
were taken to consolidate the position of
cabinet. Most importantly, the number
of cabinet ministers was increased from
20 to 24-close to half the 50-member
parliament. Together with judicious use of
chairmanships of state-owned corporations,
such tactics were aimed at diminishing
the potential for an opposition challenge.
In other words, years of effort aimed at
strengthening the role of parliament were
potentially under threat. Instead, parliament
would have reverted to being a mere
talking shop or rubber-stamping device for

Plans for the top-down construction
of a party-based system are unlikely to
be successful. Parties spontaneously arise
when there are cleavages in the society that
generate political polarisation. In the Pacific
islands, for example, the only three territories
that have fairly robust political parties are
all polarised around key issues that divide
the electorate and politicians. In Fiji, the
schism between the indigenous Fijian and
Indo-Fijian migrant-descended politicians
has been the critical influence on the party
divide. In New Caledonia and French
Polynesia, the cleavage has been between
those parties that want independence and
those that do not (or those that prefer some
kind of loose autonomy from France).
Elsewhere in the region, political parties
tend chiefly to be loose factional alliances
that assume significance only in the wake
of general elections when the issue becomes
who will form the government.

Even in Samoa, Vanuatu, Marshall
Islands and Kiribati, where political parties
are sometimes thought more significant,
organisations are more fluid than is
commonly recognised (Fraenkel 2006b).
Samoa's dominant Human Rights Protection
Party might be unique in the Pacific because
it has ruled, with only one brief exception,
for one-quarter of a century. In the wake of
elections, however, Samoan MPs, like those
elsewhere in the region, seek to gravitate
towards the government benches, and
political allegiances can be fluid. Vanuatu
once had a robust party system focused
on the anglophone/francophone cleavage
during the days of Walter Lini's Vanua'aku
Pati and the opposition Union of Moderate
Parties, but, after 1991, the major parties
increasingly splintered and a more fractured
political environment emerged (Van Trease
2005)-although some micro-parties are still
more organisationally robust in Vanuatu than in other Melanesian countries. Where parties
have arisen spontaneously because there are
key issues that divide people, this no doubt
adds to the coherence of parliamentary
processes; it also raises other difficulties,
as the troubles of Fiji, New Caledonia and
French Polynesia clearly show.

Party strengthening laws in
Solomon Islands

In and of themselves, OLIPPAC-type policies
will not promote a coherent party system
in Solomon Islands. They will, however,
strengthen the élite and make more difficult
the emergence of political newcomers, and
perhaps contribute to frustrations about
unaccountable leadership. At present, the
so-called political parties in Solomon Islands
are primarily vehicles for securing the top
job for ambitious political big-men and their
supporters. For example, immediately after
the 2006 polls, Chinese businessman Tommy
Chan published a full-page advertisement in
the Solomon Star listing alleged members of
the Association of Independent Members of
Parliament (AIMP) in a bid to win support
for his favoured candidate, Snyder Rini
(Solomon Star, 10 April 2006). Many of the
MPs listed in that advertisement had no idea
that they were being cast as 'members' of the
AIMP, or the MP for this or that constituency
was listed without a name (presumably
because the writers did not know the
electoral outcome in that constituency when
they submitted the advertisement).

The example indicates something
about what political parties (or, in this case,
clusters of independent members) are in
Solomon Islands. Similarly, former Prime
Minister Bartholomew Ulufa'alu published
advertisements in the newspapers giving
photos of the alleged candidates for his
Liberal Party shortly before the 2006 polls,
also hoping thereby to strengthen his claim
to political leadership. In response, several
candidates wrote angry letters to the
newspapers denying any connections with
the Liberal Party ('Liberals vie for 38 seats',
Solomon Star, 28 February 2006; 'Former
MPs refute Liberal's claim', Solomon Star, 28
February 2006). In their quest for the prime
ministerial position after general elections,
the big-men of Solomon Islands politics
seek to project an image of significant
support, hoping to generate a roller-coaster
or bandwagon-type effect so that others
quickly jump aboard, fearing exclusion from
the impending process of distribution of
ministerial portfolios.

If Solomon Islands introduces Papua
New Guinea-style legislation tying new
members more firmly to these political bigmen,
the result will be to make competition
during the period between general elections
and the prime ministerial vote even more
intense than at present-and even more
susceptible to money politics. Asian loggers
and would-be casino operators will be more
likely to seek to influence this process. The
stakes will be raised because lobbyists will
know that, once the government is elected,
it could be locked in for a full four-year
term. Competition between the camps
habitually established at Honiara's hotels
will consequently be even more vigorous
than usual, undermining the popular
objective of seeking to avoid corruption
surrounding the so-called 'second election'.
Only during this brief period will the
bargaining power and opportunism of the
new, first-time MPs be greatly strengthened.
Once the government is formed, the
well-established politicians who receive
ministerial portfolios will be better able to
consolidate their control over parliament.
Female politicians, of whom a growing
number have been contesting elections
of late, will be weakened and alternative
newer groupings will find themselves at
a great disadvantage compared with the established so-called parties. Eventually, the
likely result will be a major political crisis,
unless wise counsel prevails among judges
who themselves ditch the new legislation.
Other approaches to
strengthening governments in
Solomon Islands

Reforming Westminster systems to
remove the possibility of no-confidence
votes is the worst possible way to reform
Solomon Islands institutions or strengthen
government. The primary advantage of
Westminster systems is that they generate
greater potential for the mid-term removal
of unpopular governments than presidential
systems. In presidential systems, it is usually
difficult to remove the head of state and the
government unless opponents go through
long and elaborate methods of impeachment.
As a result, presidential systems-as in much
of Latin America-have often been said to
be more prone to coups than parliamentary
systems (see Linz and Valenzuela 1994;
Shugart and Mainwaring 1997). On the
other hand, the advantage of presidential
systems is that they entail nation-wide direct
elections for the head of government, with
the result that the government has a strong
and direct popular mandate. Retaining
the parliamentary system-without the
associated possibility of mid-term removal
of governments-means adopting the
weaker aspects of both systems. It misses
out on the direct popular vote for the head
of state, but adopts only the inflexibility of
the locked-in form of government.

A standard presidential system would,
however, also be a poor choice for the
Solomon Islands. Presidential systems tend
to be highly majoritarian; there is a single
presidential position to fill and the most
populous group (if it votes for a single
candidate) will usually be able to capture
the presidency. Another advantage of the
parliamentary system in Solomon Islands
is that governments have usually had to be
coalitions with representatives from across
the group, balancing, in particular, leaders
from Malaita, Guadalcanal and the Western

For the Solomon Islands, the better option
would be to retain the prime ministerial
system but introduce legislation that
makes a successful no-confidence motion
entail a general dissolution of parliament.
Political scientists who are unfamiliar with
Pacific politics might warn that this will
entail too many snap elections and shortlived
governments. Another consequence,
however, of the weakness of parties in
Melanesia is an extreme reluctance on the
part of politicians to consider a premature
dissolution. As we saw previously, Papua
New Guinea has never had a successful
no-confidence motion during the last 12
months of a government, when doing so
would entail a parliamentary dissolution.
Kiribati has had three dissolutions, but
has nevertheless been more politically
stable than its closest neighbours. Making
a no-confidence vote entail a dissolution
of parliament is a far better option than
forbidding no-confidence votes for certain
grace periods or locking MPs into backing
this or that political leader.

Neither option would, however, in
itself, do anything to diminish political
horse-trading between the general election
and the prime ministerial election. There
are four viable responses to address these
issues. First, the prime ministerial election
might be opened to public scrutiny, rather
than taking place by secret ballot.14 In 2006,
election observers declined to observe the
so-called 'second election' on the grounds
that the constitution forbid them doing so.
Second, the period between the general
election and the prime ministerial election
could be shortened (the 13 days separating the two in 2006 compounded difficulties
and increased the scope for corruption).
Third, politicians might be subjected to more
rigorous scrutiny by formalising the anticorruption
'pledges' signed by candidates
on the 2006 campaign trail. Nomination
forms signed by intending candidates before
a general election, might subject would-be
MPs to greater scrutiny by a strengthened
Leadership Code Commission. Ultimately,
however, tackling corruption during the
run-up to a prime ministerial election is
not something that will be achieved by new
legislation. Laws against corruption already
exist on the statute books. Curtailing these
kinds of activities would be greatly assisted
by only one or two high-profile convictions
of would-be lobbyists offering cash in the
run up to a prime ministerial election.

Baker, L., 2005. 'Political integrity in
Papua New Guinea and the search
for stability', Pacific Economic Bulletin,

Blackstone, W., 1830. Commentaries on
the Laws of England, (1765–1769). Book
1:Ch.2. Available from jttp://

Fraenkel, J., 2004. 'Electoral engineering
in Papua New Guinea: lessons from
Fiji and elsewhere', Pacific Economic
Bulletin, 19(1):122–33.

--, 2006a. 'The impact of RAMSI on the
2006 elections in the Solomon Islands',
Political Science, 58(2):63–85.

--, 2006b. 'The political consequences
of Pacific island electoral laws', in R.
Rich, L. Hambly and M. Morgan (eds),
Political Parties in the Pacific Islands,
Pandanus Books, Canberra:43–67.
Available from

Geddis, A., 2002. 'Gang Aft A-Gley: New
Zealand's attempt to combat "party
hopping" by elected representatives',
Election Law Journal, 1(4):557–71.

Gelu, A., 2005. 'The failure of the Organic
Law on the Integrity of Political Parties
and Candidates (OLIPPAC)', Pacific
Economic Bulletin, 20(1):83–97.

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Reforms, 2001. Standards in political
life, review of the electoral law, processes
and reform options, Consultation
Paper prepared for the National
Commission to Review the Working of
the Constitution, New Delhi, 8 January
2001. Available from

Jowitt, A., 2005. 'Vanuatu: Melanesia
in review', The Contemporary Pacific,

Linz, J. and Valenzuela, A., 1994. The
Failure of Presidential Democracy, Johns
Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
and London.

May, R., 2008. The 2007 election in Papua
New Guinea, State, Society and
Governance in Melanesia Briefing
Note, 7:1–6.

Miskin, S., 2003. Politician overboard:
jumping the party ship, Research
Paper No.4, Department of the
Parliamentary Library, Commonwealth
of Australia:1–48.

Reilly, B., 2006. 'Political reform in Papua
New Guinea: testing the evidence',
Pacific Economic Bulletin, 21(1):187–94.

Sepoe, O., Gelu, A. and May, R., 2007.
Papua New Guinea's Organic Law on
the Integrity of Political Parties and
Candidates, Paper presented at the
conference Executive Power and the
Battle for Parliamentary Confidence,PIAS-DG/ANU, Emalus Campus,
Port Vila, Vanuatu, 21–23 September

Shugart, M.S. and Mainwaring, S. (eds),
1997. Presidentialism and Democracy in
Latin America, Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, New York and

So'o, A. and Fraenkel, J., 2005. 'The role
of ballot chiefs (Matai Pälota) and
political parties in Sämoa's shift to
universal suffrage', Commonwealth and
Comparative Politics, 43(3):333–61.

Standish, W., 2004. 'The dynamics of
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1 This is an extended version of a talk given
at Land, Politics and Development in
Melanesia, a seminar organised by The
Australian National University, the Solomon
Islands government and the Solomon Islands
College of Higher Education, 29 July 2008. I
am indebted to Anthony Regan and David
Hegarty for their comments on an earlier
version of the paper.

2 'If at anytime it appears to the Governor-
General, acting in accordance with the advice of
the Speaker, that the leader of an independent
group, by reason of the numerical strength of
that independent group or by reason of the
support which he receives from the members
of independent groups generally, should
be appointed as Leader of the Independent
Members, the Governor-General shall appoint
him as such [a] leader' (The Solomon Islands
Independence Order 1978, s.66[2]). To drop this
provision seems sensible.

3 The Organic Law on the Integrity of Political
Parties and Candidates 2003. Available from

4 For a discussion of the different meanings
of the word 'integrity' used in Papua New
Guinea, see Baker (2005).

5 See Vohor vs Attorney General [2004], Civil
Appeal Case 24 of 2004, 8 December 2004.
See also 'Vanuatu agrees to constitutional
reform', Vanuatu Daily Post, 19 October 2004;
'Court to decide legality of 12-month grace
period', Vanuatu Daily Post, 5 December 2004;
Jowitt 2005:462.

6 This issue arose also regarding the Fijian
legislation, when the courts found it
impossible to establish which of the two
New Labour Unity Party MPs had 'crossed
the floor' since there was no internal party
resolution making clear the stance of the
party (see Fraenkel 2004:128–9).

7 'The whole of the law and custom of
parliament has its [origin in] this one maxim,
that whatever matter arises concerning
either House of Parliament, ought to be
examined, discussed, and adjudged in
that House to which it relates, and not
elsewhere' (Blackstone 1830:163). With written
constitutions, courts are sometimes more
prone to regulate parliamentary conduct,
but usually only where legal jurisdiction is
clearly outlined in the constitution.

8 Some critical observers of Solomon Islands
politics describe the objective of (and mutual
interest among parliamentarians in) noconfidence
challenges as being tied up with
fund-raising. Those on the government and
opposition sides can benefit financially from
the resulting pressures on political leaders to
procure political support.

9 'The Maneaba ni Maungatabu [parliament]
shall stand dissolved if, in respect of any
matter before the Maneaba, the Beretitenti
[President] notifies the Speaker that a vote
on that matter raises an issue of confidence,
and in a subsequent vote on the matter it is
rejected by a majority of all members of the
Maneaba' (Kiribati Constitution, s.78[1][b]).

10 Ben Reilly is in error when he says 'the trend
is clear: the number of registered parties has
fallen sharply since the OLIPPAC reforms were introduced, from 42 in 2001 to 15 in
2005' (Reilly 2006:191). He neglects that
the initial reaction was a rise just before
the 2002 polls, and confuses the number of
registered parties (that is, nominal parties
on the books of the Office of the Registrar
of Political Parties) with the number of
parliamentary parties (that is, parties with
seats in parliament). A significant proportion
of the alleged decrease in 2002–06 was in
fact merely a striking off by the Office of
the Registrar of Parties of registered parties
without a single member in parliament. For
the number of parliamentary parties after the
2007 polls, see May (2008:4).

11 In some cases, this was because internal party
procedures were too vague. In other cases, it
was because the party declared the issue to
be a 'confidence' question, permitting a free

12 In Papua New Guinea in early 1977, when
Julius Chan's government was in its last year
in office (and therefore when there could not
be a no-confidence vote without a dissolution
of parliament), Chan recruited Sandline
mercenaries with the objective of violently
ending the Bougainville conflict. Mass public
demonstrations and a military revolt, rather
than a parliamentary reaction, put an end to
the policy.

13 Splitting parties in this way has been a
familiar tactic in Papua New Guinea-under
Bill Skate and Michael Somare. One minister
in Somare's National Alliance in 2004 boasted
that 'we have cut off the heads of the minor
parties and will be able to gather up the
bodies' (Standish 2004:147).

14 This would require amendment of the 1978
Constitution, which provides that 'the election
shall be by secret ballot' and that 'no person
other than the Governor-General, a member,
or a public officer whose assistance is enlisted
under the preceding sub-paragraph shall be
present at an election meeting (Schedule 2 to
the 1978 Constitution, s.5[1], s.6[3]).

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Jon Fraenkel and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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