Political Blocs Taking Shape This Election

Tia Belau Editorial, October 15, 2012 —-

Is a new political paradigm emerging?

The result of Palau’s primary election may portend a possible political alignment in Palau – and a likely watershed moment in our political history, where politics began organically to shift away from being about an individual’s own desire to run for public office to a more collective approach of a group-aligned candidate.

Such political sentiment may have been provoked by the strong public reaction to the current leadership misjudging the mood of the electorate. After a simmering for a long time, the tipping point came when others took it as a cause célèbre to battle their way into congress by running against the present leadership. An evidence of this public feel is taking form in this election for the 13-senate seats.

While no official political party is legally registered, but by all indications, there are three political groups battling it out for the senate seats of the 9th Olbiil Era Kelulau. And whether we like with it or not, these political alignments are likely to stay solid after the elections and continue well into 2016 general election.

The dye has been cast and the public seem to thinks so. Sandra Sumang Pierantozzi experienced it the hard way.

The concept of electing candidates by group affiliations has been on display this election season. Last Saturday, a faction of seven senate candidates including the minority senators aligned with the presidential candidacy of Sen. Tommy E. Remengesau, campaigned in an overnight visit to Peleliu. These candidates who campaigned together and support each other’s candidacy are incumbents’ senators including: Arnold Oilouch, Surangel Whipps, Jr., Hokkons Baules, Camsek Chin, and newcomers Greg Ngirmang, Philip Reklai, and Mason Whipps. Earlier, Rukebai Inabo reportedly joined the minority-led group campaigning in a meeting with Airai voters.

The Remengesau aligned-bloc is going up against a rival faction of seven incumbent candidates who currently makes up the majority members of the senate. They include Mlib Tmetuchl, Kathy Kesolei, Mark Rudimch, Regis Akitaya, Regina Mesebeluu, Joel Toribiong, Alfonso Diaz, and Paul Ueki.

These majority members of the senate are aligned with President Johnson Toribiong’s presidential candidacy. They have basically taken up supportive positions and carry the same line of arguments with the administration on many public policies and discussions.

However, these seven majority senators are mounting their own campaigns individually.

Another political group – a non-aligned bloc – formed earlier during the campaign is the newly organized Palau Peoples’ Committee Movement. They have been the most active in conducting group-campaigning in many communities around Palau. They have published and circulated their 42-point group’s election platform. Aside from utilizing meetings with pockets in the community, they have maximized the use of radio airtime and television to reach out to the voters.

The members of the Palau Peoples’ Committee Movement include Alan Marbou, Dilmei Olkeriil, Santy Asanuma, Dr. Caleb Otto, Moses Uludong, and Alan Seid.

Independent candidates are expected to contest more elections in the future, but their clout will be limited by bloc politics. The group fight for survival and dominance in the political system will render the influence of independent candidates weakened in setting the political agenda or contribute to any substantive policy development.

With the blocs’ collective resources, competition will be backed by stronger and innovative machinery to control the narrative and gain favorable rating of the public. The more the public gets behind you, the stronger you become.

Next general election in 2016, at the earliest, perhaps could be the year that a more organized political blocs contest for seat in the congress or better yet, field opposing candidates for the presidency.

…And democracy is alive and well in Palau.

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