The Pacific island nation of Palau goes to the polls Tuesday with two brothers-in-law vying to become president – and they admit it’s made for some awkward conversations at the family dinner table. The election pits incumbent Tommy Remengesau against Surangel Whipps Jr. after they emerged as the leading contenders in a run-off vote in September. Whipps is married to Remengesau’s sister but has not let family ties constrain his campaign as he seeks to end his rival’s 12 years in office. The challenger has campaigned on a platform of change, pointing to social problems in the nation of 22,000, which lies about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of the Philippines.
“We’re in denial, our kids have no jobs. They’re selling drugs and migrating en masse to the United States to look for opportunities,” Whipps told a presidential debate this month in remarks translated from Palauan.
He said there was nothing personal in his campaign against his brother-in-law but he believed the country needed a new leader. “I’m not angry with the president, we just approach things differently,” he said. “This is not about us, it’s about Palau.”
Remengesau won the run-off ballot comfortably, attracting 4,951 votes to Whipps’ 3,762.