Big upset in Marshall Islands election

5:43 pm on 5 December 2015

The election results in the Marshall Islands have caused a big upset for the government of president Christopher Loeak, with half his cabinet voted out of office.

Several boxes of postal absentee ballots at the Marshall Islands national election tabulation headquarters just prior to the start of vetting and counting of the ballots Tuesday.

Several boxes of postal absentee ballots at the Marshall Islands national election tabulation headquarters just prior to the start of vetting and counting of the ballots Photo: Hilary Hosia

Among five cabinet ministers who have lost their seats is the prominent foreign minister, Tony de Brum, who is currently in Paris for international climate change negotiations.

The speaker, vice-speaker, and other government-aligned incumbents have also lost their seats.

The country has also elected three women to parliament, the highest number since the Marshall Islands gained independence.

Our correspondent, Giff Johnson, says the results show that there has been a strong desire for change.

"Generally people aren't happy, economic issues, a lack of job opportunities, the health situation here with the hospital. When I look at the vote for Majuro and Ebeye, where two opposition aligned candidates went in and defeated two of the three incumbents, again it's a message that people want change."

Giff Johnson says candidates now have two weeks to file complaints or ask for a recount before the final results are published.

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

A queue at a polling station in Majuro in November. Photo: RNZI GIff Johnson

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