Parliamentary Chamber: Nitijela


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Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  17 November 2003

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all the seats of the Parliament on the normal expiry of the members' term of office.

Background and outcome of elections:

  Marshall Islanders went to the polls on 17 November 2003 to elect national and local government representatives. Although no legal restrictions exist against the formation of political parties, no formal parties exist and the members of the Nitjela (Parliament) sit as independents.

The opposition turned the national election into a vote on the newly revised Compact of Free Association treaty with the United States. Marshall Islands President Kessai Note's Government had secured the approval of Parliament and the US Congress for a new, 20-year funding extension for its Compact with the United States. This recently renegotiated deal would bring over $1 billion in funding to the Government through 2023 and also about $2.3 billion over the next 60 years to Kwajalein landowners, who host the key US missile testing range. But opposition leaders and Kwajalein landowners, who had formed the "Aelon Kein Ar" (Our Islands) platform, opposed the new deal, stating the funding terms were inadequate and that the US was infringing on Marshall Islands sovereignty.

The opposition focused argued that the election was a test of the people's support for the Compact. The "Aelon Kein Ar" platform leaders announced their intention of going back to the US in an effort to renegotiate a better deal for the country if given a majority of the 33 seats in Parliament.

Prime Minister Note, who ran unopposed in his district, has held a 19 14 majority in Parliament since he took office in January 2000. His ruling platform (the "United Democratic Party") countered the Compact opposition by arguing that the newly approved Treaty included increased annual funding and trust fund contributions that would leave the Marshall Islands with more than $600 million invested by 2023 to replace expiring American aid.

The wild card in the elections was the large vote from Marshall Islanders living in the United States. With many Parliament seats being decided by fewer than 100 votes, the more than 2,300 off-shore postal ballots could easily change the result in at least 20 percent of the races.

The Government's platform candidates increased their control in Parliament from 19 to 20 seats.

On 4 January 2004, on its opening session, the Parliament re-elected Mr. Kessai Note as President. The vote was twenty for Senator Note and nine for Senator Justin Debrum, of the opposition. Senator Litokwa Tomeing of Wotje will continue as Speaker of the Nitjela.


  No parties exist.
Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 32
Women: 1
Percent of women: 3.03

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Copyright 2003 Inter-Parliamentary Union