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Reports from HPR's political reporter Wayne Yoshioka

Pacific News Minute: Nauru Government Wins Increased Majority in Elections; Opposition Cries Foul

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Final results are in from last weekend's election in Nauru. The ruling party won 16 of 18 seats in voting described by outside observers as free and fair, but, as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific New Minute, opposition leaders disagree.

President Baron Waqa was re-elected as parliament met yesterday for the first time since Saturday's vote.  His increased majority, the government said, promises more continuity and further stability.

Nauru is one of the smallest countries on earth, with just eight thousand registered voters...but one of the more controversial.  Once wealthy from mining the deposits left by seabirds, the impoverished island nation now relies heavily on income from Australian run camps that house asylum seekers intercepted at sea.  

There is a history of political instability on Nauru and  government's crack downs...after an anti-government protest last year, five opposition MPs were suspended for speaking with foreign media...four stood again in Saturday's election and three of them lost.  One of them, former President Sprent Dabwido, told Radio New Zealand the government rigged the result.  Asked why observers from the commonwealth and the pacific islands forum reported no problems, he said the election itself was well run, but, "All the bribery and all the work done by the government was done before Election Day."

That will be dismissed as sour grapes by government supporters, but President Waqa faces serious challenges.  His government has been criticized by the UN for restrictions on freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of expression.  New Zealand, which largely funded Nauru's justice system, suspended that aid last year, citing "diminishing rule of law."

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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