Pacific island-state of Kiribati votes in second round of parliamentary elections

Voters across the Micronesian country of Kiribati will head to the polls today for a second round of parliamentary elections,

kiribati election

Photo: Getty

Voters across the Micronesian country of Kiribati will head to the polls today for a second round of parliamentary elections, with climate change a major issue on the ballot.

The first round of voting for the archipelago’s 45-seat legislature on April 14 saw a high turnout of about 34,000 votes cast. The results of this preliminary round of voting were disappointing for the governing Tobwaan Kiribati Party; four ministers from previous government lost their seats, including the country’s Fisheries, Justice and Internal Affairs ministers.

A key issue during this year’s campaign season has been climate change. The potential effect of rising sea levels and worsening tropical cyclones poses an existential threat to the South Pacific island group.

To address these concerns, Kiribati’s government has turned to China as a source of finance for infrastructure projects to protect the islands from climate change, particularly through Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative. In September 2019, Kiribati severed ties with Taiwan, signalling its turn away from its traditional source of development aid, the US.

While the Tobwaan Kiribati Party is expected to remain in power, a loss of seats could be a signal that voters want the government to more aggressively tackle climate change by shifting further from a disinterested Washington. The more Beijing provides funds for infrastructure projects—through alternative energy development and construction contracts—the more likely China’s clout in Kiribati and the South Pacific will increase.

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