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Reports from HPR's political reporter Wayne Yoshioka

Pacific News Minute: New Political Leadership in the Pacific

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US presidential hopefuls will spend most of January in Iowa and New Hampshire as the primary and caucus season gets underway.  We know that one of them will be elected later this year.  Four Pacific Island nations could get new political leadership this month.  As we hear from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute, one new president has already been chosen.

A new generation took power in the Marshall Islands yesterday, as 44 year old Casten Nemra was chosen as president by the freshly elected members of the Senate.  For many, including President Nemra - yesterday was their first day in office.

In late November, a raft of veterans were voted out including half the cabinet.  Even so, the government of outgoing President Christopher Loeak managed to find just enough votes to elect the country's youngest ever chief executive and just it's second commoner.  Opposition candidate Kenneth Kedi was elected speaker.  Legislative power in the Marshall Islands rests with the lower house.  Members there are called Senators and they elect the President.  The upper advisory chamber is made up of 12 Chiefs. The change comes just after former President Loeak and former Foreign minister Tony De Brum played key roles at the UN Climate Change Summit in Paris.

There will be a second round of elections in Kiribati this week to select its new legislature.  One that's settled, they will elect a new President- Anote Tong, another veteran of the climate change wars, is stepping down after three terms.

There could be a change at the top in Vanuatu, where Prime Minister Sato Kilman holds on as a caretaker.  14 of his parliamentary supporters are now in Prison after convictions for bribery and Taiwan's democratic progressives are expected to win both the Presidency and control of the legislature. That would mean a more independence minded government in Taipei.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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