Bid by naturalised citizen to enter politics challenged
An unprecedented legal challenge over whether a naturalised citizen can stand for parliament in the Marshall Island's is underway.
An unprecedented legal challenge over whether a naturalised citizen can stand for parliament in the Marshall Islands is underway.
American Jack Niedenthal, who became a Marshall Islands citizen in 2000 and has lived there for over 30 years, is the first naturalised citizen to do so.
Our correspondent, Giff Johnson, told Leilani Momoisea they're arguing that according to electoral law, Mr Niedenthal needs to have a Marshallese mother or father, or traditional land rights via maternal lineage.
GIFF JOHNSON: They're saying that that is a requirement that was adopted by the parliament many years ago in the election law, and that he doesn't meet that. Now his attorney, David Strauss, says the constitution has very brief and specific requirements for candidates for the parliament and that Mr Niedenthal meets all the constitutional requirements and that legislation cannot trump the constitution. In other words, they can't add on additional requirements because the constitution is the supreme law of the land, and that's where the basic dispute is.
LEILANI MOMOISEA: And so is there a worry that this will open the door for non-indigenous Marshallese to make a case to stand for parliament?
GJ: Well that seems to be the point of the attorney general's review of it. The chief electoral officer just says, 'Well I'm going according to the law', he doesn't interpret it. But the attorney general in his interpretation does address the control of the parliament, control of the political destiny of the country being in the hands of indigenous Marshall Islanders. That seems to be the train of thought that's motivating the opposition to it.
LM: Is there much public support for Jack Niedenthal?
GJ: The newspaper here, The Marshall Islands Journal did a Q and A on this when he initially filed his petition to run. It seemed to be split, there were a number of people who said they didn't think it was appropriate for a non-indigenous Marshallese to run for parliament. And some said sure, if they're a citizen, it should be allowed. So it seems like there's feeling on both sides of the question here.
The matter was filed in the High Court this week, with a date for a hearing expected to be set in the new year.
The election is to be held in November.
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