Pacific News Minute: First Woman Elected President in the Marshall Islands

Feb 4, 2016

Credit RMI Education Dept

Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Carly Fiorina hope to be the first woman elected President of the United States but both still need to secure the nomination of their parties.  Last week, the Republic of the Marshall Islands crossed that barrier with the election of Hilda Heine as its first female chief executive.  We have more on that and another update on Pacific politics from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

Just last month, Casten Nemre became the youngest man ever chosen to lead the Marshalls; after just a week in office, he leaves with the shortest presidential tenure in the country's history.  Former Education Minister Hilda Heine was elected to succeed him with 24 votes in the 33 member legislature.  She is also the first woman to earn a doctorate in the Marshall Islands and one of just three women in parliament.

That's typical of most Pacific Island Nations: in last year's elections in the Solomon Islands, fifty women stood for parliament, one was elected, last month in Vanuatu, all eight female candidates lost. It's different in French Pacific territories, where the law requires a fifty-fifty split. Women now form the majority in the assembly of French Polynesia.

There are still problems forming a governing majority in that all-male parliament in Vanuatu...on Tuesday, a press release announced the formation of a majority coalition...but the fragility of that group emerged almost immediately, when one of its biggest members wavered. Ralph Regenvanu, leader of the Groan MoJustis Pati told Radio New Zealand International that the problem comes from the Island's prison, which houses 14 former MPs, convicted of bribery last year. Some remain the nominal head of parties that won seats in the new legislature, and may be demanding pardons as a condition for support of a new government.