As the Marshall Islands heads into the heat of the holiday season, with exuberant celebrations of dance and music ongoing from last week through the first week of January at island churches, another type of frenzy is building in force with a January 4 deadline: Negotiation to form a new government for the Marshall Islands.
While jeptas are stomping their “biit” (dance) to the tune of ear-shattering keyboard music, senators-elect are choosing a lower-profile approach as they group and regroup at Sandy’s, DAR, Marshall Islands Resort, and other venues during this holiday period in search of a way to cobble together at least 17 senators needed to elect a new President and forge a national government.
The 2016 election results produced three groupings with similar numbers: the current government party, the KEA opposition group, and the newcomers, known as the “Solids” after their original announcement of a “Solid Six,” which soon increased to eight, then 10 and reportedly now 12. With each group controlling roughly a third of the 33-seat chamber, a coalition is required to make a new government.
This week, both KEA and the Solids announced formation of a coalition government that they say has at least 20 senators. “We established ground rules and guidelines for election of candidates,” said Kwajalein Senator-elect Alvin Jacklick. He said this agreement is paving the way for cooperation between the two groups. “We’ve agreed to establish a Coalition Government.”
Both Jacklick and Ailinglaplap Senator-elect Alfred Alfred, Jr., a member of the “Solids,” confirmed that a meeting was scheduled for late Wednesday among the new coalition for the purpose of conducting a “primary election” for president.
Alfred said the new coalition has agreed on a five-five split of Cabinet portfolios between the two groups, with the specific ministerial assignments to be left to the discretion of a new President. Under the coalition agreement reached earlier this week, the Speaker would be from the KEA party and the Vice Speaker from the Solids.
But don’t count out the government party led by President Chris Loeak. One longtime election observer described the current political environment as “very fluid” with discussions and gambits among the different groups ongoing in the build up to the Nitijela’s opening day, January 4. “There are 10 more days until January 4,” said the election observer. “Nothing is done until it’s done (by vote on January 4).”
Read more about this in the December 25, 2015 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.