17 Nov 2003

Opposition in Marshall Islands tries to turn elections into referendum on Compact funding

9:11 am on 17 November 2003

Mashall Islanders go to the polls today to elect national and local government representatives.

But the opposition has attempted to turn the vote into a referendum on the newly revised Compact of Free Association treaty with the United States.

The President has gained Marshall's government and US Congressional approval for a new, 20 year funding extension.

The deal will bring over one billion Us dollars in funding up until 2023.

There will also be two point three billion over the next sixty years for Kwajalein landowners who host the key US missile testing range.

But opposition leaders and Kwajalein landowners, who have formed the "Our Islands" party are adamantly opposed to the deal.

They say the funding is woefully inadequate and that the US is infringing on Marshall Islands.

They have made the Compact the focus of their campaign saying the vote will be a test of the nation's support for the deal.

President Note is running unopposed in the election and has held a 19 to 14 seat majority since he took office in January 2000.

Unofficial on-island results are expected later this week, but final results won't be known until early December