AUSTRALIA/OCEANIA

Kiribati Has A New President

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The Republic of Kiribati officially elected Taneti Maamau as the new President. Kiribati’s Chief Justice, Sir John Muria declared him as the new President.

 

Kiribati has a two-party system, meaning two dominant political parties and extreme difficulty for other parties to win national elections in the country. A distinguishing feature of its electoral system is the two-round run off system in which the Parliament nominates up to four of its members after each election to conduct a nation-wide ballot for the presidency and is elected by plural vote to solve a four-year term. The unicameral House of Parliament nominates candidates from its own ranks and voters then choose one to be president. Interestingly, citizens enjoy a high degree of political freedom. Political parties are loosely organized and generally lack fixed ideologies or formal platforms. Geography, tribal ties and personal loyalties influence political affiliations.

Kiribati has experienced political stability since independence from the British in 1979. The country has had four presidents since independence, which is a marked contrast to other Pacific nations. The first president, Sir Ieremia Tabai was educated in New Zealand and took the country to independence at just 29 years old. After he served his three terms his Vice President, Teatao Teannaki was elected although analysts believed that Tabai continued to rule by proxy and had considerable influence in the government. Teannaki had his education in the United Kingdom and served just one term as president.

His successor Teburoro Tito was educated in Fiji and came from the opposite side of politics. He is the only one of the four Presidents to be elected from the Tarawa constituency. Tarawa has a 50% population and is the capital Kiribati. Tito was eventually kicked out of office due to a no-confidence motion, which led to the election of Tong after a brief caretaker period in 2003.

 

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Former President Anote Tong bows out of Tonganomics era

 

There is a common pattern here in the profile of the former Presidents. They all had overseas education and professional backgrounds, which means that even though they were not born in Tarawa they spend their lives living there or overseas. This also means that they have the financial capacity to compete in national elections campaigns, which is becoming increasingly expensive in Pacific Island countries. The implication of this is that in a two-round run off system, prospective candidates will have to fund both an initial parliamentary contest and then a nationwide presidential campaign.

Taneti Maamau was announced President in a live declaration by Sir Muria after counting the votes of the presidential elections. Maamau won the majority of votes at nearly 20,000.

The President-elect received the Presidential seal from his predecessor Anote Tong at an official swearing in ceremony held at the Kiribati Parliament House. This makes Maamau the fifth President since independence in 1979.

The success of President Taneti Maamau ended the outgoing party’s 12 year reign and Maamau described this as a cry for change from the people. Former President, Teburoro Tito, also described the election as a positive step. He described it as a milestone achievement for the people of Kiribati being able to determine their future after being served by a 12-year old administration, which has been trying to keep a hold on power. He said the people of Kiribati could now move one step or several steps ahead as a result of this achievement.

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