Casten wins close Nitijela vote

New President Casten Nemra (right) and new Speaker Kenneth Kedi greet each other following the Nitijela election Monday January 4, as Nitijela Chaplain Rev. Enja Enos looks on. Photo: Giff Johnson.
New President Casten Nemra (right) and new Speaker Kenneth Kedi greet each other following the Nitijela election Monday January 4, as Nitijela Chaplain Rev. Enja Enos looks on. Photo: Giff Johnson.

The Nitijela elected the youngest and only the second commoner as President Monday morning. By a narrow vote, new Senator Casten Nemra (left), 44, defeated seven-term parliament veteran Alvin Jacklick, 17-16, demonstrating  how evenly divided the 33-seat chamber is.

Nemra’s election reflects brilliant maneuvering in the lead up to Monday’s election by members of the government of outgoing President Christopher Loeak, led by Kwajalein Senator/Iroij Mike Kabua (right).

Inauguration of the new President and his Cabinet is scheduled this coming Monday, January 11 at Nitijela. Following administration of the oath of office to the President and Cabinet Monday, Nemra will deliver his inaugural address.

The story of Monday’s vote is how Kwajalein Senator/Iroij Mike Kabua and members of the outgoing Loeak administration out-maneuvered the coalition put together by the opposition KEA Party and a team of newly elected independents who had come together calling themselves the “Solids.”

This opposition coalition successfully elected its nominees for Speaker and Vice Speaker, Rongelap Senator Kenneth Kedi and Arno Senator Jejwarick Anton, respectively, by identical 19-14 margins.

But when it came to the president’s vote, Michael Kabua nominated Nemra, an unexpected development for many election observers. Nemra was one of the newly elected members of parliament who was initially considered for president during a “primary” vote held 10 days ago by the opposition coalition, but did not get enough votes to gain the nomination over Jacklick from the coalition. In Monday’s election, Nemra edged Jacklick by one vote, causing another unprecedented development for the new parliament: a Speaker and Vice Speaker elected by one group and the President elected by another.

Read more about this in the January 8, 2015 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.

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