Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN. File photo/Reuters
Voters in the Marshall Islands went to the polls on Monday in a general election that will determine who will lead the Pacific island country's negotiations with the United States on the renewal of a regional security pact.
The vote comes at time of growing concern in the United States and among its allies about China's efforts to expand its influence in the Pacific.
About halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the Marshall Islands gained independence in 1986 after four decades under US administration.
President Hilda Heine is seeking to retain her seat in the 33-seat Senate, which will then vote to pick the next president.
Speaking before the polls opened, Heine called on voters to “stay the course” and return her government to power.
How she fares could have an impact on an agreement, due to expire in 2024, which gives the US military exclusive access to airspace and territorial waters of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
“Heine faces a difficult road back to power, which may slow the progress in renewing the Compact of Free Association,” Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute, a think-tank in Australia.
In exchange for granting access to the US military, the three countries get financial assistance under the compact.
Talks at renewing it began in August when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Micronesia.
The three Pacific nations have gained greater strategic significance given China's push into the region and recent decisions by two other Pacific countries - the Solomon Islands and Kiribati - to abandon diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognise Beijing.
Thailand’s election results were due on Monday, with the junta appearing poised to hold on to power in a vote that saw its main rival diminished but vaulted a new pro-democracy force into the kingdom’s politics.
Around 90,000 polling stations across the country opened at 8 a.m., and will close at 5 p.m., reports Efe news. Voters will elect 500 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, for a four-year term.
Firdous Awan said the prime minister has issued directives to the relevant ministries as well as the Election Commission of Pakistan to come up with a comprehensive programme for giving voting rights to overseas Pakistanis.
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Winner of Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support will be announced on World Humanitarian Day (August 19), at a live streaming ceremony on The Big Heart Foundation's social media platforms
The flag-hoisting ceremony was also held at the Pakistan Consulate General in Dubai on the occasion of the 74th Independence Day. The ceremony was held in a manner keeping in view the local laws on social gatherings due to COVID-19.