Final results are in from last weekend’s election in Nauru. The ruling party won 16 of 18 seats in voting described by outside observers as free and fair, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific New Minute, opposition leaders disagree. President Baron Waqa was re-elected as parliament met yesterday for the first time since Saturday’s vote. His increased majority, the government said, promises more continuity and further stability. Nauru is one of the smallest countries on earth, with just eight thousand registered voters…but one of the more controversial. Once wealthy from mining the deposits left by seabirds, the impoverished island nation now relies heavily on income from Australian run camps that house asylum seekers intercepted at sea.
Voting to elect a new government on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru began on Saturday, with international observers invited to monitor the polls for the first time in more than a decade after criticism over human rights in the world’s smallest republic. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights last year urged Nauru to take action to improve its standing in a range of areas including freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary and crackdowns on media access. Nauru’s government rejected the majority of the U.N criticism.
The Nauru MP and former president, Sprent Dabwido, says he suspects the government has intervened to stop local media from running the opposition’s campaign advertising. Nauru’s general election is on Saturday, and Mr Dabwido also accused the government of manipulating the police commissioner to prevent the opposition from holding a rally. He said local media had been running the government’s election advertising for weeks, but had yet to broadcast the Opposition’s commercial. “One is ready to go right now, one is almost ready,” he said.
The Pacific Islands Forum is “in consultation” with the government of Nauru over its forthcoming election but would need to be invited to send electoral monitors. This week the two former presidents, Marcus Stephen and Sprent Dabwido, accused the government of trying to manipulate the election. Among their grievances were new laws that require a candidate to pay $2,000 – a 20-fold increase in the entry fee – and to resign their public service job three months before polling day. This meant “the current government will be the only one who can afford to run an election campaign”, Dabwido told Guardian Australia.
An aspiring female candidate in Nauru Ann Hubert says cultural barriers are holding women back from being involved in politics in the country. Elections are to be held later this year, and the United Nations has held a series of workshops hoping to increase the participation of women. Ms Hubert says women are more educated than men in Nauru, but both women and men see Parliament as a man’s job. “When it came to the actual polling day, it just went back to like voting for the men. Because either your parents wanted you too, or because your husband told you to vote, and then it went back to the cultural, it’s the man that you should vote for, because they should be running the country, not the women.”