David Kabua takes the helm

The new RMI leadership team, from left: First Lady Ginger Kabua, President David Kabua, Speaker Kenneth Kedi and wife Theresa, and Vice Speaker Peterson Jibas and wife Dixie. Photo: Eve Burns.

New RMI President David Kabua was elected Monday by a comfortable Nitijela majority, 20-12.The Nitijela chamber was jam-packed with a standing room-only crowd for the election as the drama of the post-November 18 election came to a conclusion with Monday’s vote. The voting itself lacked the drama of the 2016 Nitijela election that saw Jaluit Member of Parliament (MP) Casten Nemra win 17-16.

The first nomination was for Speaker, with Jabat MP Kessai Note nominating incumbent Speaker Rongelap MP Kenneth Kedi for another four-year term. This was followed by Ebon MP John Silk nominating Majuro MP Brenson Wase for the Speaker post. The vote, 19-14, confirmed what had been known in the lead up to Monday’s election: Kwajalein MP and Iroojlaplap Mike Kabua’s camp had the majority and some to spare. Incumbent President Hilda Heine’s team was unable to gain traction in its efforts to woo three or more members away from the other camp to gain a second four-year term in office.

The only modest bit of drama occurred during the Vice Speaker and President votes, when the Heine team’s vote total declined to 13 and then 12, respectively.
New Kwajalein MP Kitlang Kabua nominated new KBE MP Peterson Jibas for the Vice Speaker job, followed by Mejit MP Dennis Momotaro naming Namdrik’s Wisely Zackhras for the position. That vote came out as 20-13.

New Majuro MP Sandy Alfred nominated Wotho MP David Kabua for the presidency, followed by Kwajalein MP David Paul nominating Heine for a second term. That vote dropped again, with Kabua winning 20-12 when one of the ballots in the basket collected by Clerk Morean Watak was left blank — leaving Nitijela members and the audience to speculate as to who the two defectors were.

Iroojlaplap Kotak Loeak, who chairs the Council of Irooj, urged the body to work together for the good of the country. His brief remarks were followed by President Kabua taking the floor briefly. The new President said the new four-year term would be challenging with negotiations with the US government for a new funding arrangement on the table. He also highlighted his concern about climate change and the Runit Dome radiation contamination.

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