Unprecedented national election looms in Marshall Islands

11 November 2019 by Giff Johnson for Radio New Zealand

A contentious lead up to an unprecedented national election in the Marshall Islands this month has revolved largely around a controversial law banning off-shore voting that was recently declared unconstitutional by the country's Supreme Court.

But, while the offshore voter ban has sparked rigorous debate in the local newspaper and on social media, few other issues have been campaign flashpoints in a nation where voters are used to voting for their relatives.

The ban on postal absentee ballots for the estimated 30,000 Marshall Islanders living in the US makes the 18 November national election unprecedented in the 40 years of constitutional government: It is the first election with no mechanism available for offshore voters to cast their votes unless they return to the country to do so.

In addition to being unprecedented with about a third of the country's citizens unable to vote, the election is important in other ways. It will elect national leadership that will be responsible to oversee negotiations with the United States for post-2023 funding to replace expiring grant programs, and to guide the nation through a period of increasingly contentious relations between China and the US, which has implications for Marshall Islands diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

The wildcard for incumbents in this election is the lack of postal absentee ballots: aside from fewer votes that will be cast because the ban is still in place, will the offshore vote ban itself be an issue that affects domestic voting patterns?

As the election has neared, anger has surfaced among domestic voters about their offshore relatives being prevented from voting.

Some voters and candidates were angered by the Supreme Court ruling in October that declared the Parliament law banning postal absentee balloting unconstitutional but also made the ruling prospective for after the election. The Supreme Court said it put too much burden on the government at a late stage in the election process to roll out some system of voting for voters living in the US by 18 November.

"It seems ironic that the same Court that held the postal ballot elimination law unconstitutional would turn around and order that same unconstitutional law be used when it will surely result in virtually no overseas voting in the upcoming election," said Evelyn Konou, a four-term member of Parliament from 1979 to the mid-1990s who is a candidate for Parliament and one of several plaintiffs in lawsuits that successfully challenged the Parliament ban on offshore voting.

The President's Office in a statement issued last month praised the court ruling and said lawmakers would work to address the offshore voting issue after the new parliament convenes in January. Although the President's Office repeated the government's concern about offshore voters manipulating postal ballots that "jeopardised election security and integrity," the Supreme Court dismissed this issue as an irrelevant justification for banning postal ballots.

Only a handful of seats in the 2015 national election were decided by postal absentee ballots. As more and more Marshallese have migrated to the US, offshore voters will be able to control the outcomes of many electorates in the future - once some method of voting is put in place for them, as required by the recent Supreme Court ruling that declared a ban on offshore voting to be unconstitutional.

In the meantime, some Marshallese residing in the US have already arrived on Majuro specifically to cast their ballots on 18 November. As the election approaches, it is likely more Marshallese will fly in to cast their ballots - but the number returning to vote will be minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of adult islanders now living in America.



  • It is great that our neighbors in the RMI are finally waking up to the Western Propaganda and realizing that after 67 Atomic bomb tests, many years of Nuclear Tribunal run-arounds, and USA Climate Change denial, that China over Taiwan is the more wiser, smarter, and sensible choice for the People of the RMI.

    I would like to take this time to offer PRE-CONGRATULATIONS to RMI, which is on the cusp of a paradigm shift from Taiwan to China.
  • You can wish all you want, Mr. China Coconuts, but the RMI has no intention of abandoning their friendship with the democracy of Taiwan in order to be swallowed up by communist China.

    If China wants to promote human rights, it should start by granting freedom to its own citizens, especially those living in Hong Kong where unarmed protesters are being shot in the streets.
  • FactsMatter: Both the USA and FSM have ties with China

    So what is good for the USA and the FSM should also be good for the rest of the Pacific!

    I would urge all Pacific Nations to use this line of argument or justification to switch over from Taiwan to China.

    This is GLORIOUS!
  • As your nickname states - Facts Matter. Well in this case, it absolutely does matter. Please read the facts in the article below. This should help you to clearly understand how the USA compares with China on human rights.

    This is a US News article on this subject matter https://www.usnews.com/news/best-countries/articles/2019-05-13/10-countries-with-the-highest-incarceration-rates

  • edited November 2019
    Lets not forget this law was introduced and spearheaded by former peace corps volunteers who are all Democrats who ((( can vote in the US & RMI))) but these DEMOCRATs wanted this. It's ok for whites/Democrats to vote in the RMI and US elections but it's not ok for niggers/brown/marshallese to do the same.

    Such a process.
  • Once again, Reaper is trying to spread nonsense lies.

    The RMI's election law was sponsored and passed by the RMI government led by RMI President Hilda Heine and her cabinet of all-Marshallese RMI senators.

    "Former peace corps volunteers" and "whites/Democrats" had nothing to do with it.

    Like his hero Trump, Reaper lies and lies and lies and lies some more.

    What a pathetic joke!

  • It will be interesting to see what happens after the elections in RMI. Many voters are predicting that a China friendly government in the RMI will soon be possible.
  • China? Nope. Marshallese like their freedom to live, work, and study in the U.S. without a visa. Tens of thousands have moved there. and more of them move there every week.

    How many Marshallese have moved to China? LOL
  • Do you and other white people work on Micsem Forum because it is amazing how you and other non-Micronesians like you cover this forum 24/7 as if it is your job to do so.

    And just for the record, you don't speak for Micronesians. You are a white person non-Micronesian. You don't speak for us.
  • FYI, coconuts, I am as Micronesian as you are.
  • @FactsMatter, Are you still stuck on 2016?

    Ask Jack Neithanthal or Neidantal or whatever u call him. Jack is White, a former Peace Corps Volunteer from Pennsylvania or Virginia or somewhere in the east coast. He told me personally that he support this law which we are talking about which pertains to stopping or allowing Marshallese to take part in.

    From his views which he told me clearly, It's not ok for Marshallese to be allowed by the RMI constitution to do so as our constitution says!

    A white man not only that but a fucking Democrat or someone who is stand for liberalism say this and a few weeks later it get passed out nitijela!?!?!?!?!??

    How coincidence for a white Democrat to publicly support this law and a week later it passes in the Nitijela.
  • Let me know what Jack thinks about this.
  • Who cares what Jack thinks? I don't. But you certainly care....a lot, apparently. lol

    In any case, the election law banning postal ballots was initiated and passed by President Heine and her cabinet and was approved by a vote in the Nitijela.
  • u do he white like u. This wasn't approved by the nitijela u lying fuck. This was approved by the majority not OUR NITIJELA.

    The small don't represent the majority. And My great Aunt's party represents the small % of the overall 70K Marshallese world wide.

    Sad thing is Daisy took the front of that hate for Her Aunt's pary/Hilda. She lost her seat. She was a moderate. And whats more Hildas party was pushing for more women in the Nitijela and in Hildas stronghold of Majuro no women got voted into the Senate. Hypocrites =(
  • Wrong again, Weeper.

    The election law was passed in the Nitijela, as are all RMI laws.

    Hilda represents Aur, not Majuro.

    Daisy represented Jaluit, not Majuro. She lost her Jaluit seat.

    Try to get your facts straight, my foul-mouthed friend. Then people then might believe you more.
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