With last Wednesday’s filing deadline, Palau’s general election has officially begun. There are 83 days of election campaigning before the polls open on 1 November, but indications are there that this will be an election prognosticators are bound to shine. It’s not that the local prognosticators have refined their skills in assessing the electorate or that a scientific polling is finally here on island, but it’s more about the surprisingly low number of candidates who filed their nominating petitions.
In the senate, a total of 24 candidates are vying for 13 seats. Separating the eight incumbents together leaves 16 senate hopefuls among them are four women, one former vice president, four former senators, two former ministers and one current minister, a 25-year old son of a former president, daughter of a seating vice president, a doctor in private clinic, chairman of the Foreign Investment Board, and a former CEO of PPUC.
Election costs money and it will only costs more to mount a nationwide campaign from Kayangel in the north to Angaur in the south. That is why senate incumbency is a huge factor in any successful election. In addition, the eight incumbents’ chances of keeping their seats have only been enhanced with the five current and hugely popular senators not defending but leaving open their seats to be contested.
Opting not to defend their seats are Surangel Whipps, Jr. and Sandra Pierantozzi who are running for president. Also Raynold “Arnold” Oilouch and Mlib Tmetuchl are vice presidential candidates. The fifth and the lone politician who is retiring is Sen. Joel Toribiong. These five senators would have been easily reelected if they sought another senate term.
But with only eight defending, the other seats becomes highly competitive ensuring that the weakest of the incumbents have to drop beyond the five seat cushion to lose a seat.
For that reason alone, predicting that the eight incumbent senators would retain their seats is not a farfetched idea and gives an initial score of 61% in forecasting the next senate make-up. Picking an additional winner from the 16 challengers takes a prognosticator to 69%. Selecting two winners or predicting 10 successful candidates gives an accuracy level of 77%, while adding a third one raise it up to 84%. Picking 12th senator is at 92%.
The 24 senatorial candidates is the lowest it has ever been since the first Palau constitutional government took office in January 1981. What is to make of this senate list of candidates in our young democratic nation will be debated way after the election is finished. Is this an anomaly but will return to the usual three dozens or more senatorial candidates every four years or this is how Palau's electoral politics is maturing, for better or worse..