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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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

CNMI Leadership Choice Complicated By Expected Impeachment
Next Senate President to become Lt. Governor after Fitial ousted

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Nov. 8, 2012) – The Independent Republicans and Covenant Party winning candidates are ready to form a "coalition leadership" in the 18th House of Representatives once it convenes in January.

In the Senate, however, the selection of the new Senate president has become "complicated" due to the expected impeachment of Gov. Benigno R. Fitial. Once he is convicted by the Senate and removed from office, the Senate president will become lt. governor.

Under the Senate’s "gentleman’s agreement," a member from Tinian is supposed to be next presiding officer, presumably Senate Vice President Jude U. Hofschneider, but the impeachment issue has "changed everything," and some senators were unhappy that their colleagues had made public statements about a "very sensitive matter."

Yesterday, no one among the senators wanted to go on record for this story, but Variety learned that Sen. Ralph DLG. Torres of Saipan is being considered as the more plausible choice for Senate president and, therefore, for lt. governor.

In the House of Representatives, the Covenant Party and IR’s will announce next week the composition of the new leadership, which will hold 16 of the 20 seats.

The coalition leadership, according to Rep. Ralph S. Demapan, "is not an accident but was designed." There was already a "blue print" for the House coalition that will be composed of the winning IR and Covenant Party candidates.

House Minority Leader Joseph P. Deleon Guerrero, an IR, will be the next speaker, while another IR, Rep. Frank S. Dela Cruz, will be the new vice speaker.

As of 6 p.m., yesterday, the incoming leadership members were still discussing the chairmanship of House committees.

Variety was told that "the discussion was progressing smoothly," and the talks were "very amicable."

In the Senate, no one wants to talk about the new leadership except the incoming IR member from Saipan, Rep. Ray N. Yumul.

He said as a freshman senator, he will have to respect whatever arrangement the Senate has in selecting its new presiding officer.

Yumul, at the same time, reiterated that the mandate is to finish what they have started —to impeach the governor.

"Although senior members know where I stand on many issues, I’m not looking for any chairmanship right now. I’m more focused on the people’s mandate," Yumul added.

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