Salwai, from the Reunification of Movements for Change party, was announced as leader some three weeks after more than 200,000 voters went to the polls, the Vanuatu Daily Post and other media reported.

It followed Parliament being dissolved in November by President Baldwin Lonsdale when 14 lawmakers were jailed for bribery.

The political breakdown came after a period of instability with four changes of prime ministers in the past four years.

Salwai, a francophone, thanked local chiefs, church leaders and the people of Vanuatu for their role in "steering the country back on track after a very tough year in 2015".

The constitutional crisis erupted last year when the 14 lawmakers were convicted on bribery charges and hastily tried to pardon themselves.

Parliamentary speaker Marcellino Pipite, using his powers as acting President while Lonsdale was overseas, issued pardons for himself and his co-conspirators.

On his return, Lonsdale restored the convictions, vowing "to clean up the mess".

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