Elections here difficult to predict. While we’ve seen community discontent expressed in various ways concerning declining government services over the past few years, this discontent at the national level doesn’t necessarily translate to votes at the atoll level, which are usually according to family ties.
Then there is a potentially huge offshore vote from America, which in the 2011 national election overturned the results of the domestic vote for three candidates. Out-migration has been steady, so there are more voters in the US with increased possibilities for impact on the outcome.
But there are impediments to successfully submitting postal absentee ballots: Electoral getting ballots and affidavits to voters in time for them to meet voting deadlines, people properly filling out affidavits, making sure the outside envelope’s post office “franking” shows the date clearly, etc. The fact that the law does not allow postal ballots to be opened and tabulated until two weeks after election day means that after preliminary domestic results are completed, probably by the end of next week, everyone will get to sit around watching the clock tick for another 10 days before we can find out what impact these offshore votes will have on the domestic results.
As to individual races, Kwajalein presents one of the most interesting, with pressure on the three incumbents (Iroij Mike Kabua, Tony deBrum and Jeban Riklon) from long-time Senator (Kwajalein and Jaluit) and Kwajalein landowner Alvin Jacklick and MEC General Manager David Paul both presenting credible challenges to the current leadership. Kabua, of course, is a given. The unknown is the other two seats.
The dynamics of Majuro’s race changed with the unexpected passing of Senator/Iroij Jurelang Zedkaia last month, eliminating one similarity between Majuro and Kwajalein races: election of the key iroij were a foregone conclusion and candidates vie for the “other” seats available. Now Majuro has five open seats: does this situation help or hurt the younger candidates or the four incumbents? Everyone you ask has a different opinion.
So many unknowns. Still, one trend we’ve noticed to some extent is voters talking about accomplishments — as in, “what has this or that senator done while in office?” That is probably a positive sign indicating the voting public is maturing in its assessment of politicians and perhaps not simply voting based on family ties.
There will be at least three new faces with the retirements of long-serving Arno Senator Nidel Lorak and Bikini Senator Tomaki Juda, and Zedkaia’s absence. Beyond that, stay tuned.
For more election news, read the Marshall Islands Journal.