Nauru goes to polls for new govt

Almost 70 candidates are vying for 19 seats in the parliament of Nauru, which has allowed international observers for the first time in 12 years.

Trại giam ở Nauru

The Nauru detention facility. Source: AAP

Voting to elect a new government on the tiny Pacific island of Nauru has begun, with international observers invited to monitor the polls for the first time in more than a decade after criticism over human rights in the world's smallest republic.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights last year urged Nauru to take action to improve its standing in a range of areas including freedom of expression, the independence of the judiciary and crackdowns on media access.

Nauru's government rejected the majority of the UN criticism.

There were 67 candidates vying for support from just under 8000 registered voters for the 19 seats in parliament in Nauru, which lies about 3000 kilometres northeast of Australia.

The island also hosts a controversial detention centre housing asylum seekers on behalf of Australia - its biggest foreign aid contributor. Under Australian law, anyone intercepted trying to reach the country by boat is sent for processing offshore.

The detention centre houses about 500 people and has been widely criticised by the United Nations and human rights agencies for harsh conditions and reports of systemic child abuse. Many staying there have self-harmed.

Political instability has plagued Nauru, with reports of frequent government crackdowns on dissent.

The election is being monitored by international observers for the first time in 12 years, including a team from The Commonwealth led by the former president of Kiribati Anote Tong, the government of Nauru said.

"The success of these elections will depend on every individual playing their part to ensure the process is inclusive, transparent and peaceful," Tong said in a statement on Saturday.

The Commonwealth observer team is expected to issue a report on the credibility of the elections before July 13.

2 min read
Published 10 July 2016 at 8:26am
Source: AAP