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Unofficial election results from the Marshall Islands show that the balance of power has shifted from President Hilda Heine’s government to the opposition.
The opposition now appears to have an outright majority of 17, and possibly more as the country awaits the announcement of complete unofficial vote tabulation that starts a two-week clock ticking to a final result.
Under Marshall Islands election law, there is a two-week period after the announcement of the unofficial results to allow candidates to file petitions for recounts or contest the results.
All hand tabulating of results from the November 18 election wrapped up by late Thursday last week. The delay in releasing complete unofficial results reflected the bottleneck of a single person inputting all of the tabulations into the master voting results list.
With 95 percent of votes reflected in unofficial results released Saturday, President Heine’s ruling group has lost five seats — two in Majuro, one in Kwajalein, and two on remote outer atolls. They also gained one in another outer atoll electorate. Aur Atoll voters returned Heine for a third term in the Nitijela or parliament.
The net impact of the voting results is that the opposition, which is led by Kwajalein paramount chief and senator, Michael Kabua, appears to have the 17 members of parliament to be needed to control the 33-seat parliament. Several newly elected independent senators could join either group. But the momentum for the January election of a new president has clearly shifted to Kabua’s group.
There are currently no organized political parties in the Marshall Islands. Members of parliament form and re-form political alliances. No president since Kessai Note, who served from 2000-2008, has achieved a second four-year term in office.
After last Monday’s election, Heine will likely continue this one-term trend for heads of state in the Marshall Islands. Last October, she barely survived a vote of no-confidence, when parliament deadlocked at 16-all, with the tiebreaking vote represented by a senator who was off-island for medical care.
Additional fallout from the 18 November election is the reduction in the number of women in the new parliament. For the past four years, the Marshall Islands had three women in parliament — the most ever. But both Daisy Alik-Momotaro of Jaluit Atoll and Amenta Matthew of Utrok Atoll lost their seats in last week’s vote. Matthew has served as the minister of Culture and Internal Affairs. With the re-election of Heine and the election of Kitlang Kabua, the first woman to represent Kwajalein in Nitijela, the parliament will have two women in the 33-seat chamber for the next four years.
Parliament will convene 06 January, 2020 to elect a president, speaker and vice speaker.
SOURCE: MARIANAS VARIETY/PACNEWS
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