Live streaming election count: Vanuatu 2020

Vanuatu’s state broadcaster live-streamed its election count. Per Radio New Zealand:

The decision to live stream the counting was a unique one, made in an election that has already been tripped by storms, death and the global coronavirus pandemic.

The country went to the polls on 19 March, in some northern islands, this was extended to 20 March, as bad weather prevented ballot boxes from reaching some islands. In this vast country of about 80 islands spread across 1,300km of ocean, they then all had to make their way back.

Last week the country’s electoral commissioner, Martin Tete, died of natural causes in what had been described as an incalculable loss for Vanuatu.

The loss of Mr Tete was also a hurdle for the Electoral Office. Not only had they lost an esteemed colleague, by law, counting was not possible until a new commissioner was appointed.

By the time a new appointee was in place, the government had declared an emergency over covid-19 and restricted meetings to no more than five people.

Elections in Vanuatu are via single non-transferable vote (SNTV), so they are always of interest to me. I have even used data from Vanuatu in published research:

Matthew E. Bergman, Matthew S. Shugart and Kevin A. Watt, “Patterns of Intra-Party Competition in Open-List and SNTV Systems.” Electoral Studies 32, 2 (June, 2013): 321–33; published online at

And for one chapter in Votes from Seats.

7 thoughts on “Live streaming election count: Vanuatu 2020

  1. “Elections in Vanuatu are via single non-transferable vote (SNTV)”
    MSS, you wouldn’t believe how long it took me to find that out, given that Vanuatu is close to Australia and I personally know a few expats who’d lived there (but who, understandably, weren’t mavens on the voting details).
    Around the Walter Lini era, I would see a report in one Aust newspaper that said “Vanuatu uses first-past-the-post voting, so there are no preference deals among parties” and then another that said “Vanuatu uses proportional representation, so there may not be a majority for one party”, and I would go around in circles.
    SNTV is the answer that squares this circle, and curiously, when reporting on elections in Japan at that same time, our journalists had no problems with explaining it as “Each district elects 3, 4 or 5 MPs but each voter may choose only one candidate”.

      • It’s possible our local media were just drawing on copy filed by a single reporter in each country, and maybe Our [Wo]man In Tokyo understood SNTV (or, more likely, thought it was worth the effort adding a sentence explaining it to their readers) while Our [Wo]man in Port Vila didn’t or didn’t…

  2. Given the recent silence on this board, I might tell you that Vanuatu is no longer totally unknown in Canada, after our retiring Green Party leader Elizabeth May thanked, during our mini-session of Parliament on Saturday, our Minister of Global Affairs for keeping in touch with her about a number of Canadians trying to get back to Canada, “including, as he will recall, one from Vanuatu.”

    • One trusts, Wilf, that la Ministrice immediately added “le Vainouaitou” or whatever the French for the country is, immediately after the English name and separated from it by a vertical bar symbol, to avoid violating the British North America Act 1867 (Imp).

      • According to Wikipedia the French (and Bislama) for Vanuatu is, ummmm:

        Vanuatu (English: /ˌvɑːnuˈɑːtuː/ (About this soundlisten) VAH-noo-AH-too or /vænˈwɑːtuː/ van-WAH-too; Bislama and French pronunciation [vanuatu]), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (French: République de Vanuatu; Bislama: Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is a Pacific island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia, 540 kilometres (340 mi) northeast of New Caledonia, east of New Guinea, southeast of the Solomon Islands, and west of Fiji.

  3. This election was meant to be held after a referendum on constitutional reform which would have led to members of parliament who left or were expelled from the political parties they were elected from, but that was postponed, I believe because the legislation was introduced too late to go to a referendum. As I’m sure Matthew knows, Vanuatu has extremely high levels of fragmentation, with the largest party in this election getting 9 of 52 seats and no party getting more than 13% of the vote. No one appears to have suggested changing the electoral system as a solution.

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