28th January, 2016
The Marshall Islands parliament has elected a new president, Dr Hilda Heine, the first female leader of any independent Pacific island nation.
Her election follows a period of unprecedented politicking which culminated on Tuesday in a no-confidence motion which ousted 44-year-old Casten Nemra just one week after he was inaugurated.
A former education minister, Dr Heine was the sole presidential candidate when the ballot was held at the Marshall Islands parliament — the Nitijela — early on Wednesday.
The speaker told members that if they did not want to vote for Dr Heine they should leave their ballot blank.
She won 24 of the 30 votes cast, with six parliamentarians abstaining and three absent from the 33-seat Nitijela.
Dr Heine is the first Marshallese citizen to obtain a doctorate and just one of just three women in parliament.
Filmmaker Jack Neidenthal, who stood unsuccessfully at the last election, said it represents an advance for the country.
“She’s very well educated, she’s the very first Marshallese person to get a PhD and so she is very intelligent, and she is very politically savvy,” he said.
“I just think we are in great hands.”
Mr Neidenthal said Dr Heine’s experience as education minister should pave the way for further educational reforms under her leadership.
“She’s a very impressive person when you sit with her in a meeting and she’s a very deep thinker about almost any issue that comes upon her,” he said.
Mr Nemra, her predecessor, was only inaugurated on January 18, making his tenure the shortest presidency in the small island’s history.
[Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation News]