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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Fitial Impeachment Talk Renewed After CNMI Elections
Residents’ choices allegedly reflect desire for governor’s removal

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 8, 2012) – The House members who supported last month’s impeachment move against Gov. Benigno R. Fitial believe that yesterday’s election results show that the people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands want him out.

Rep. Tony P. Sablan, who was reelected in Precinct 1, said Independents and Covenant Party candidates were elected "to do the right thing."

The anti-Fitial candidates won 16 of the 20 House seats and two of three open Senate seats.

U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, who is urging federal authorities to investigate corruption in the CNMI government, won almost 80 percent of the vote running against the governor’s Republican candidate.

"I deeply appreciate those who believe in what we were trying to do which is the right thing," Rep. Tony Sablan said.

Following the impeachment process, which was blocked by the governor’s allies in the House, he said they remained firm in their determination to put the government "back on the right track and under the rule of law."

He noted that all the nine House members who supported impeachment won on Tuesday.

"The people are frustrated with the other House members who turned a blind eye, and ignored the sentiment of their constituents," he added.

Only three pro-Fitial House allies were re-elected.

Sablan noted the high turnout in the midterm elections which, historically, have had lower turnouts.

"It was because the people saw Nov. 6 as an opportunity to voice their frustration and let everybody know that we have to finish the [impeachment] process and return the commonwealth to the rule of law by stopping the abuse of power," he said.

House Minority Leader Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, who topped the Precinct 1 race, chaired the impeachment panel and is expected to be the next speaker of the House.

Rep. Ray N. Yumul, who won by a wide margin against Republican Sen. Luis P. Crisostimo, said it has never been a secret that their team wanted to fight corruption and abuse of power.

What they failed to do last month, Yumul said, referring to the impeachment process, is what the electorate wants them to try again.

"The people have spoken and overwhelmingly gave us a clear mandate to continue with what the House minority has pledged to accomplish," he said.

Yumul and Rep. Tony Sablan thanked their supporters, their families, friends and the people who believed in the work they have done as public servants.

Deleon Guerrero, for his part, told KSPN that the voters’ decision to reelect them "has a lot to do with the impeachment."

The people, he said, have been clamoring to end corruption. "That is why they put us in. I think that is the first and foremost reason they gave us the numbers they did. I think that the message to the governor will be resign or be impeached," Deleon Guerrero told KSPN.

75% turnout

Commonwealth Election Commission Executive Director Robert Guerrero attributed the high turnout to strong encouragement from the candidates themselves.

In an interview after the tabulation of the votes on early Wednesday morning, he said of the 16,771 registered voters, 12,599 or 75 percent, cast their ballots

He earlier said the tabulation would start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and finish at 12 midnight. The first results, however, came out after 10 on Tuesday evening and the tabulation was finally finished after 6 a.m. as in past elections.

The delay, Guerrero said, was due to the processing of absentee ballots that were brought from the post office to the multi-purpose center.

He said they had to remove the ballots from envelopes and separate them from copies of voter affidavits.

"Absentee ballot processing is very detailed. We went through three different stages before we could actually get the ballots out," he said adding that they processed over 1,500 absentee ballots.

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