There is a second exception to political instability in the South Pacific, which I thought should be mentioned.
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville, population approximately a quarter of a million, is a federacy of PNG. An independence referendum is due before 2020. Bougainville has its own executive, legislature and courts. The region went through an extended and bitter conflict with the national government over mining and land ownership issues between 1990 and 2005. Autonomy emerged from a peace agreement brokered by New Zealand and the Pacific Islands Forum. The history is tragic:
Bougainville has remained peaceful for a dozen years. Peace was negotiated following a decade-long war that is estimated to have caused approximately 2,000 deaths and possibly ten times as many more due to lack of services (Braithwaite et al. 2010).
The then province of Papua New Guinea fell from its top rank to the bottom in terms of per capita income and other social indicators of development among the 19 provinces.
The autonomous region has much broader powers than PNG provinces. The national government retains a defined list of powers and Bougainville anything not on that list is a function of the autonomous region. The regional constitution emerged from an inclusive process assisted by international mediators and experts. It is very different from the PNG constitution and other Pacific constitutions.
The president is popularly elected and automatically has a seat in the house of representatives.
The members of the executive council must be members of the Bougainville house of representatives. Some members of the executive council are regional representatives. Each is appointed in consultation with the members of the house of representatives for a subregion within the autonomous region. There is a similar provision a woman appointed in consultation with the women members of the house. Any member of the council can be dismissed by the president.
The president and all members of the house of representatives can be recalled. The vice-president is appointed and dismissed by the president.
While the constitution does state that the executive council is responsible to the house of representatives and through the house to the people, (Section 85(2)(a)) there is no provision for a vote of no confidence.
The removal provision reads:
94. VACATION OF OFFICE OF PRESIDENT.
(1) Subject to Subsection (2), the President ceases to hold office on the assumption of office by a new President following an election of President under Section 89 (election of President) or Section 90 (special election of President).
(2) The office of President becomes vacant if the President –
(a) dies; or
(b) resigns by written notice to the Speaker; or
(c) ceases in accordance with Section 91(2) (qualifications for and disqualifications from election as President) to be qualified to stand for election as President; or
(d) is dismissed from office as President under the provisions of Part 13 (Leadership Code); or
(e) is recalled in accordance with Section 58 (recall of members of the House of Representatives); or
(f) is or becomes of unsound mind within the meaning of any law relating to the person and property of persons of unsound mind; or
(g) has been declared bankrupt by a court of competent jurisdiction and remains bankrupt.
Part 13 provides for misconduct in office to be prosecuted before the Bougainville high court by the Bougainville ombudsman or the independent public prosecutor. No president has been removed or recalled.
Since the peace agreement Bougainville has regained about 40% of the per capita income it had when the war broke out. The region has considerable mineral resources, including the largest copper deposit on the planet.
Should the independence referendum pass, Bougainville will be the first nation with an incontestably presidential system in Oceania, although Madison’s eyebrows could possibly reach orbit were he confronted with an executive president and cabinet who also sit in the legislature.