The voting was for constituencies of different islands or island groups for seats in parliament. For example, Santo island (where we spent most of our survey trip last year - a large island up north) has 7 seats to fill. A full 33 candidates ran for those 7 seats. Another large island, Malakula (where the guys on our team visited last year for a few days) had 7 seats to fill as well but had 45 candidates running! Efate island (where we are living now) had 4 seats to fill for the outer parts of the island (36 people running for those offices) and 6 seats to fill just for Port Vila, the capital (46 people ran for those).
People have been very excited but also very serious about these elections. Posters have advertised candidates, but there have been public demonstrations, speeches, and programs throughout Vila promoting various candidates. This is all in addition to daily and nightly trucks running through town with flags, processions, shouts, and megaphone speeches. Pictures here are of a "kastom" dance done at a political rally at the park down by the market. Churches we've attended have given announcements about candidate meetings held throughout the weeks in churches and communities. Last February, Ni-Vanuatu people were able to update their voting registration information to be ready for this election. Some people either didn't bother to register or their registrations were messed up because there were threats to burn down the Electoral Office and the Principal Electoral Officer was assaulted when they found out their electoral cards were invalid. Police had to be involved to protect the building and came to the aid of the PEO. Many other threats were made throughout the islands because of anger over election results. On Aniwa island, over 30 people had to abandon their homes because of threats from supporters of a losing candidate. Those who were threatened had reportedly voted for another candidate. The Aniwa island Council of Chiefs met and requested that a larger island, Tanna, help out with their police force. It will be interesting to see how things shake out as the new officials get set up in parliament over the next few months. Please pray that Vanuatu leaders and the new government would rule with integrity and justice. Much corruption goes on in this country within leadership so many people are hoping for a change for the better.