The rule of third in Palau elections

By Kambes Kesolei —-

So now we have entered 2012 and the beginning of the 40-week election campaign. And so far, this is much we know about the line-up of candidates. There are four names. For the office of the president, we have the incumbent Johnson Toribiong. This is a no-brainer. Anyone who thinks otherwise has no business discussing politics.

If one is to recall the primary campaign of 2008, then presidential candidate Joshua Koshiba was the only one to promise to serve one-term if elected. He didn’t win, evidently, but would have been an interesting case, at this point, if he did.

Sen. Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., who in between his 2nd and his current 3rd term as senator, served as a 2-term president as well as a 2-term vice president, started an early signature drive even before this current administration reached its halfway mark. What is to become of those signatures? We don’t know. But what we do know is the reportedly over 6,000 signatures were not collected for nothing.

Former VP/MoJ/Senator-elect/ and current Sen. Camsek Chin, still maintains a strong base of supporters. His runaway victory in the senate special election – he won all but two precincts – left everyone vying for second place finish.

Ms. Sandra Pierantozzi, former VP/Senator/MoA/MoH/MoS will be the only woman taking on the guys for the highest office of the land. Perhaps, the only one capable of running a well financed campaign with own personal funds.

Palau elections are patterned into thirds. The first third is the introduction of the candidates. This is a time where introductions are made, not by the candidates themselves, but by their detractors. Any likely names vying for the office will be taken down and cut into pieces. The introduction goes like this: “He didn’t deliver on his platform; he is member of this clan and his wife this; he hired a relative; he is part owner of this company; he only has his self-interest to look after; all candidates are the same creature; too much travel off-island; gained weight; goes all over the island for funerals…”

This introductory part by the street and coffeehouse analysts starts the day the new administration is sworn into office. It normally comes to an end at around April.

The second-third comes into the scene when campaigns are announced, organized, and goes forward, with catchy abstract slogans. This part of the campaign is when candidates comes out and introduce themselves to the voters. And the chorus goes, “This is who I am, this is what I have done, this is what I want to do, this is why you want to choose me.”

Flyers, billboards, newspapers and television will carry the platforms that spell out the visions of each candidate. The common themes usually run along the same line: the youth are our future, health, education, environment, jobs, minimum wage, and etc.

The second phase is usually the long slog to September primary. There will be round of state visits – except the island of  Sonsorol and Hatohobei –  on boats and cars. Day and night. This is where the candidates expound on their platforms and debate will take place as they try to one-up the others of the advantage of their policy positions. This is also the time they host “meetings” with traditional and contemporary social organizations, re-connect with old friends and make new ones. This is also the time where they need to raise money to position them in the primary election. And the primary election is where the second-third ends.

The third and final phase is the 5 weeks to election day. The top two candidates will reach out to the unsuccessful primary candidates or their supporters for their votes. State visits are ramped up. Hosting big lunch and dinner gatherings are repeated. At least one trip to Guam, Saipan, U.S west coast, and Hawaii, just to be sure.

And of course no campaign won’t be complete without the three B’s: Band, Barbecue, and Beer.

However by this time, most voters have already made up their mind. Several factors come into play: They vote for their own village sons and daughters.  Support goes to candidates affiliated with clan, family, and organizations. They also based their vote on the traditional political alignment of progressive and liberal parties of many years ago.

The rest who are less in numbers are the independents. They are voters who place more value on issues and the character of the candidates.

The rule of third is played out every four years. Rinse and repeat.


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