September 05, 2011

By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press

September 1, 2011 Chuuk, FSM - When Chuuk's former Governor, Wesly Simina resigned after being sworn in as Chuuk's At- Large Senator to the FSM Congress the resignation left a hole in Chuuk's executive structure. Simina's Lt. Governor, Johnson Elimo immediately became the acting Governor of the State of Chuuk. Since Simina's remaining term was longer than a year a special election was mandated by the Chuuk Constitution (Article VI Section 11) to be held on the fifth Wednesday after his resignation.

The special election took place on August 24.

Yasen Harry, Chuuk's Executive Director of the Election Commission said during a telephone interview yesterday that the results of the special election had been tabulated and that the Election Commission certified the results on August 30. After scrambling for a copy of the certified results he came back to the phone and said that the final vote tally the Commission certified was:

Johnson Elimo 7,945
Alexander Narruhn 6,913
Redley Killion 3,692

Harry said that he did not have access to email and could not send us a copy of the certified results.

As of 5:00 this evening, Pohnpei time, more than two days after the supposed certification of the election results, neither Narruhn, the closest vote getter to the Governor-Elect Elimo, nor Narruhn's attorney, Ben Enlet had received any notification from the Election Commission that the election results had been certified.

Yesterday Enlet was taken aback when we told him that the Election Commission had certified the election results the day before.

According to an email Enlet sent to K-Press after 10:00 this evening he, and Narruhn had only just received copies of the official results from the Election Commission.

Quick notification by the Election Commission of certification of election results is not only important because candidate complaints regarding the election process must be filed at the Election Commission within five days of certification but because the law requires the Commission to do so.

Chuuk's Attorney General, Joses Gallen confirmed by email this evening that "there is a schedule" for a swearing in ceremony for Governor Elect Elimo set for 10:00 tomorrow morning. Elimo announced today that his Lt. Governor will be Ritis Heldart. According to the Chuuk Constitution, Elimo's appointment is subject to confirmation by a vote of 2/3 of the Senate.

Governor-Elect Elimo's swearing-in ceremony is scheduled to take place only three days after the election results were "certified" by the Election Commission; only a few hours after Enlet received the "certified" results of the election on behalf of his client.

Speculators said that Alexander Narruhn would not contest the election because the remaining term for the position of Governor of Chuuk State is short.

"My supporters would be unhappy if I didn't file a complaint," he said, and he has done exactly that.

Today Narruhn's attorney filed a Writ of Mandate at the Chuuk State Supreme Court alleging that not only had Narruhn not received a copy of the final "certified" results of the election but that the Election Commission has been "closed from public" during all of September 1.

Narruhn's filing asks the court to decide a Chuuk State Constitutional issue regarding whether the terms of Article VI Section 7 apply to a "special election." Article VI of the Constitution establishes an Executive Branch. Section 7 of that Article requires that a winning candidate for the office of Governor must win an election by a majority vote. If no candidate receives a majority vote "a runoff election between the candidates on the tickets receiving the two highest pluralities shall be held on the fourth Tuesday following the general election, as prescribed by statute," the Constitution says.

No candidate achieved a majority vote in the "special election" of August 24.

Section 11 of Article VI sets up the mechanisms to handle a situation when a sitting Governor "dies, resigns, suffers a major incapacity, or is removed from office." If that type of event occurs when the remaining term is more than one year, as it recently did, "the Lieutenant Governor becomes Acting Governor until a Governor is elected and takes office. The election shall be held on the fifth Wednesday after the event occurs," the Constitution says. That election is the one that just occurred.

The term "special election" never appears in Article VI of the Chuuk Constitution and the filing on behalf of Narruhn essentially asks the court to consider whether the "election" referred to in Section 11 should have the same rules applied to it as the rules in Section VI, in which case there should be a runoff election in Chuuk on September 20.

According to Narruhn's court filing, Chuuk's Election Commission ruled yesterday that a runoff is not necessary in this case. The filing said that the Commission based their decision on advice provided to them by Chuuk State Attorney General Joses Gallen.

At press time the Writ of Mandate was the only document officially filed by Narruhn's attorney. By the time this newspaper goes to print, Enlet said he will have filed a petition with the Election Commission to set aside the results of the August 24 election. The petition will be supported by sworn affidavits. Those affidavits were not yet available when Enlet sent a copy of the draft petition to K-Press after 10:00 tonight.

If the Election Commission agrees that significant election improprieties occurred as the petition alleges, the Commission can set aside the election results and call for a new election. If they don't the Commission's decision can be appealed to the Chuuk State Supreme Court.

However, the majority of Election Commissioners are likely to be "conflicted out" since they disregarded a legal opinion from the Attorney General issued before the election that gave Wesly Simina a second term as Governor.

That contest was also contested by competing candidates.

That AG's opinion essentially said that Election Commissioners cannot directly supervise polling places because the Commissioners are the ones who are called upon to decide whether or not improprieties occurred at polling places. If the Commissioners themselves supervised the polling places they would be deciding against their own supervision.

Executive Director of the Election Commission, Yasen Harry said that Election Commissioners traveled to Honolulu, Maui, Hilo, and Portland in order to supervise the polling processes in those places.

Harry said that he signed the Commissioners' travel authorizations because they are the bosses and he is "just an employee" of the Election Commission.

The draft copy of the petition contesting the election makes a number of serious allegations regarding the conduct of the election:

The draft complaint contained fifteen paragraphs of specific allegations of election wrong doing in Chuuk.