MAJURO (Yokwe / Pacific Islands Report / Pacific Media Watch): Social media and the internet broadcasts of Republic of the Marshall Islands radio completely changed the way off-island Marshallese participated in the 2011 RMI National Election.
For the first time, with internet access, citizens residing abroad were able to hear the tabulation counts as they were announced from election headquarters. As counts were read over V7AB, the government radio station in Majuro, last night and today, the news was shared across Facebook and website forums.
The radio connection brought the excitement of the election at home to those abroad. Absentee voters, after feeling frustrated and disenfranchised during the 2007 election were able to be just as informed as locals. This election season, candidates also used the radio and media to communicate with voters rather than visits to the oversea communities.
Electoral Board officials, vote counters and poll watchers met at the International Convention Center to count votes for the five Majuro Nitijela seats, mayor, and city council, several hours after the polls closed at 7pm on Monday.
The first official announcement from ICC did not give any specifics about the votes, but described the setting at the headquarters. Election personnel, for identification purposes, were wearing orange colored outfits. There were 13 tables and 13 poll watchers. Despite the rain over the capital atoll, people were gathering around.
The first tabulation was released at about 12 midnight. Throughout the night and early Tuesday morning, there were sporadic releases of the vote counts on Majuro and for a few outer islands by announcers "Brother D. and Brother W.", but no totals.
Interested Marshallese, scattered across the US from Arkansas to California, stayed up listening to hours of mostly Marshallese music, a few personal announcements, and public service education spots.
Early Tuesday morning, announcements became more frequent as tabulations for various wards in Majuro were completed.
By 9.30am Majuro time, the first total for Majuro Nitijela seats was released, although not all wards had yet been tabulated. It appeared then that three incumbents – Iroij Jurelang Zedkaia with 1000, David Kramer with 855, and Brenson Wase with 604 were headed for re-election.
New challenger Tony Muller, from the telecommunication company, and Phillip Muller, the RMI’s UN Ambassador, could be part of the line-up to fill Majuro’s five seats, with 892 and 724 votes respectively.
Votes will continue to be counted until tabulation is completed.
Further updates will be available on Yokwe Online website’s Election 2011 Forum.
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