Battle over naturalised citizen’s right to vote

MAJURO – An unprecedented legal battle is unfolding in the Marshall Islands over whether a naturalised citizen can stand for election to the nation’s parliament.

The chief electoral officer and the Attorney-General both rejected a candidate petition filed by Jack Niedenthal, an American who has lived in the Marshall Islands for over 30 years and became a Marshall Islands citizen in 2000.

His attorney David Strauss argues, however, that he meets the constitutional requirements to stand for election.

A candidate must “possess traditional land rights and have either a mother or a father of Marshallese descent with customary jowi (lineage),” said chief electoral officer Bobson Almen when he rejected Mr Niedenthal’s petition. Attorney-General Natan Brechtefeld agreed, saying parliament has acted within its power to legislate limitations on who can run for office. Mr Niedenthal is taking his challenge to the High Court seeking a ruling.

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