Feb 25, 2018 Last Updated 5:27 AM, Feb 19, 2018

HOW can one predict the result for next month’s general elections in Samoa, now? Smartphones, that’s how. Similar to other island states, Samoa has embraced mobile phones with almost alarming ease.

Blank pageYet clicking on the Tautua Samoa Party website reveals a white page, blank except for admin folders, but no visible content. In a country where nearly everyone has a mobile, and significant percentages check Facebook, the opposition’s social networking skills also seem dismal, with just ten people liking the latest post at time of writing – a photo from their sixth birthday, in December.

A few likes, but no comments. Old school The opposition Tautua party has instead gone the opposite direction, apparently dumping the website in favour of an oldschool newspaper. With tens of thousands of social network users in Samoa, that approach and the lack of response does not bode well for notions of political regime change any time soon. In fact, many are predicting the elections are over before they’ve even begun. “Tui will get it again”, is the common wisdom heard around town, and islands. Will he?

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Political horse-trading

VOTERS in Kiribati went to the polls on January 7th 2015 and gave the country’s more prominent political parties more than a wake-up call. For the first time in their political history, the i-Kiribati are more likely to witness intensive “political horse-trading” to determine who succeeds Anote Tong as the next Kiribati President. When the dust settled, there were 16 political “newcomers”, making up the largest single political “bloc” if they decided to form a coalition.
The ruling Boutokaan te Koaua (BTK) Party came in with 13 elected members after losing five of its sitting ministers including a key member and veteran politician, Teatao Teannaki from Abaiang. Their coalition partner, the Maurin Kiribati (MK) Party also suffered a major defeat with the loss of its leader and founding member, Nabuti Mwemwenikarawa.
The Party won two seats. Reports on the ground suggest supporters are optimistic that the co-founder and former lawyer MP of South Tarawa, Banuera Berina, will provide new directions for the party. Berina won the Kuria constituency defeating former finance minister Tom Murdoch. The Opposition, Karikirakeantei-Kiribati (KTIK) Party was not spared by voters either, having its Parliamentary seats cut back to eleven. Many of the new faces in Parliament are well-educated young i-Kiribati men with professional work experience.
For others who may not have the tertiary qualifications or work experience, financial status apparently found favour with voters as in the case of at least two elected members from South Tarawa
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New players, old lessons

VANUATU saw out 2015 on a high note as a model of the Westminster system. The separation of powers worked well and the checks and balances were all in place. Fourteen Members of Parliament out of a total of 52 were in gaol, their crime of bribery having failed to work as intended. Several were members of cabinet. One of those jailed included the acting Head of State whose personal efforts to secure a presidential pardon for them all - including himself - failed. The substantive Head of State tried to enable the Rump to work effectively in unity and understanding, but that could not be achieved.

President Baldwin Lonsdale had no choice but to call a snap general election even though the last months of 2016 were already planned for the next national elections. The Republic seems to have started well on its New Year, too. The weekend of Islands Business going to print has seen that snap election taking place and three election observer teams monitoring the progress of polling and vote counting. The chairperson of the Commonwealth Observer Group, the Rt Hon. Hubert Ingraham, was able to congratulate the citizens of Vanuatu “for participating peacefully and orderly in their 2016 General Election.”

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Battle for top job

IN what may be a record in the Pacific islands for speed of a no confidence motion following election, just three days after Casten Nemra’s inauguration as the new President of the Marshall Islands on January 11, opponents in the nation’s parliament filed a notice of their intent to move a vote against Nemra’s few days old government.

The rushed leadership challenge, unprecedented in 37 years of constitutional government, offers an indication of the volatility and apparent lack of stability in the nation’s parliament following the November 16 national election, which also produced an unprecedented result: 40 percent of the 33 seats changed hands.

The election resulted in half of the senators aligned with the ruling party losing their seats, and a strong contingent of younger Marshall Islanders elected. The parliament will decide the fate of the new government on January 25. The Nitijela (parliament) has been split from its opening session January 4, when the Speaker and Vice Speaker were elected by one faction and the President by another.

This is another unprecedented development for these top national leaders to be elected by different groups in Nitijela. New Speaker Kenneth Kedi and Vice Speaker Jejwarick Anton won by 19- 14 margins, but Nemra was elected by a one-vote majority, 17-16, as some senators bailed from an opposition coalition — an alliance of the longstanding opposition grouping of senators and about 10 of the newly elected senators, which had agreed to elect veteran MP Alvin Jacklick as President...

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Poll twists and turns

THE election of the Marshall Islands’ — and the independent Pacific’s first — head of state in late January followed a rollercoaster series of leadership twists and turns in this north Pacific nation’s parliament. It saw the nomination by a paramount chief of a commoner, Casten Nemra, and his subsequent election on January 4 as the youngest president in Marshall Islands history.

But his slim majority collapsed just days into his presidency, a motion of no confidence was moved, and endorsed by parliament January 26. The next day, Dr. Hilda Heine was elected president of the nation without opposition, becoming the first woman to head this nation in its 37 years of constitutional government. Heine is not new to breaking glass ceilings for women. Earlier in her career, she was president of the College of the Marshall Islands and permanent secretary of education.

In the 1990s, she moved to Hawaii to complete her Ph.D. in education, becoming the first — and still only — Marshall Islander to achieve this postgraduate degree. She worked for many years with the Honolulu-based regional organization PREL (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning) that supports regional educational exchanges and reform projects in U.S.-affiliated islands. She returned to the Marshall Islands to stand for election to Nitijela (parliament) for Jaluit Atoll in 2007, but lost. In 2011, she switched to run from Aur Atoll, easily winning a seat in parliament. 

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