Postal votes could determine Marshall Islands elections

7:16 am on 17 November 2015

Monday's elections in the Marshall Islands appear to have drawn a large turnout of voters, but it will be two weeks until the results are known because of the high number of postal votes

Marshall Islands voters went to the polls Monday to elect national and local leaders. In Majuro, thousands of voters got out to cast their votes early, with many of the polling stations busy from 7am opening time

Marshall Islands voters went to the polls on Monday to elect national and local leaders Photo: RNZI GIff Johnson

Our correspondent in Majuro, Giff Johnson, says there were queues leading out the door at many polling stations around the country's main atoll, and the elections appeared to have gone smoothly.

"The Marshall Islands national election got going with pretty heavy voter turnout in most polling locations. I went around to many of them to see how it was going and it was very organised, things were running smoothly with lots of lines."

He says there has been tight competition for the seats in the 33-member legislature, with foreign minister Tony de Brum facing a particularly tough battle for re-election in Kwajalein.

But he says despite a large number of candidates and dissatisfaction with government services, the results of the election are far from certain.

"One of the things about voting in the Marshall Islands, as in a lot of small islands in the Pacific, historically it's gone along family lines, people vote for their relatives no matter what. So the question is whether some of these younger folks who've worked very hard, whether they will be successful in actually mobilising across family lines."

Giff Johnson says the final vote count is expected in two weeks, because of the high number of offshore postal votes that need to be counted, which could have a large influence on the election outcome.

In 2011, offshore voting from the United States overturned the domestic result for three candidates.

Marshall Islands voters went to the polls Monday to elect national and local leaders. In Majuro, thousands of voters got out to cast their votes early, with many of the polling stations busy from 7am opening time

Marshall Islands voters went to the polls on Monday to elect national and local leaders Photo: RNZI GIff Johnson