BY BERNADETTE H. CARREON
Palau Correspondent

Shown during a debate in March are (from left) Alan R. Seid, Surangel Whipps Jr., Vice President Raynold Oilouch and former president Johnson Toribiong.
Photo by Bernadette H. Carreon

KOROR, Palau — The Palau Election Commission is expected to certify the results of the Sept. 22 primary elections by the end of the week of Sept. 28, but two of the four presidential candidates have already conceded.

Vice President Raynold Oilouch and former senator Surangel Whipps Jr. — currently president and CEO of Surangel and Sons Co. — were successful as the top two contenders; they will face off in the Nov. 3 general election.

Although there are more than 1,000 absentee ballots yet to be tabulated on Sept. 29, 7,754 voters who cast their votes in the Sept. 22 election.

Whipps led the primary with 3,546 votes with a wide margin compared to Oilouch with 1,984 votes.

Former president Johnson Toribiong was third with 1,145 votes and Alan R. Seid, chairman of the Micronesia Investment and Development Corp. and a former senator placed fourth with 983 votes, according to unofficial results from the election commission.

Voter turnout was at 30% with total registered voters of 25,281. The voter turnout is expected to be higher during the Nov. 3 election, as voters may also vote for senators and members of the House of Delegates.

Oilouch campaigned for Palau to remain COVID-free, although he supports reopening of the borders for international tourism.

“I am realistic that Palau can’t continue to close its borders forever,” he said.

“We need to find way to slowly open borders, especially with the countries that we know are safe, as far as COVID-19 is concerned. So at the moment, the only place that is pretty strong in terms of preventing COVID-19, is Taiwan,” Oilouch said.

He said he believes he is the best candidate to give Palau the stability it enjoys, as he has the experience of how government operations are run, having been appointed as the person leading  COVID-19 responses.

Whipps campaigned for tax reform and diversifying the economy.

He said he believes in investing in the Palauan people and giving them the best assistance to thrive. “If you want a successful country, you need good healthcare; you need good education; you need a strong workforce; you need justice and then you build a strong economy. What are the elements that can help Palau with what we’re facing? … Healthcare is an economy we can pursue, also education but then there’s no question — we need to invest in agriculture and aquaculture,” Whipps said. mbj