Nauru president loses seat in election

Wellington, Aug 25 (AFP/APP):Nauru’s president, a strong supporter of Australia’s hardline policy of detaining refugees on the tiny Pacific island nation, has lost his seat in a general election, official results showed Sunday.

Voters went to the polls on Saturday and selected two rival candidates over Baron Waqa in his electorate of Boe, results revealed, ending the 59-year-old’s six years in office.

His successor will not be known until the 19-member parliament meets to choose a new president, although finance minister David Adeang will be considered a favourite if he is re-elected.

Waqa proved a controversial leader at times, with Australia’s Lowy Institute think-tank last year saying the country of 11,000 had “lurched towards authoritarianism” under his leadership.
His government has made it difficult for international media visiting Nauru to report on conditions facing asylum seekers.

It also introduced laws carrying heavy jail terms for political protesters and at times curbed access to sites such as Facebook, which critics said was aimed at curbing dissent.

Australia’s policy of processing asylum seekers on Nauru — and the equally remote Manus island in Papua New Guinea — has proved an economic lifeline for a country which exhausted its previous source of wealth: phosphate deposits used as fertiliser.

Nauru’s government revenues ballooned from Aus$20 million (US$13 million) in 2010-11 to Aus$115 million (US$77 million) in 2015-16 largely due to fees paid by Canberra linked to the asylum policy, official Australia data shows.

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