Taiwan ally Baron Waqa loses bid for re-election as president of Nauru

Parliament to elect new president

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President Baron Waqa (left) welcoming President Tsai Ing-wen to Nauru last March.

President Baron Waqa (left) welcoming President Tsai Ing-wen to Nauru last March. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – One of Taiwan’s rare international backers, Nauru President Baron Waqa, lost his re-election bid last Sunday (August 25), raising fears that the tiny Pacific nation might switch ties to China.

Voters elect members of a 19-seat parliament who then choose one of its members as the new president. Waqa finished third in his electoral district, meaning he will no longer seat in the new parliament, international media reported.

The outgoing president has been a staunch ally of Taiwan, speaking out on its behalf at international events and meeting President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) several times. She addressed Nauru’s parliament just last March.

While Taiwan was not an issue during the election campaign, Waqa was facing criticism over his support for Australia’s immigration policies. Nauru draws revenue for visa fees it charges Australia per asylum seeker while hosting an “offshore processing center” for refugees, Australia’s ABC News reported.

The president also came under fire over allegations his government granted citizenship to 118 foreigners in order to influence the election outcome. Most of the new citizens were described as “mainly Chinese people employed by the Government,” according to the ABC News report.