Taneti Maamau re-elected as Kiribati's president
Updated 17:39, 23-Jun-2020

The president of Kiribati has won re-election, state media in the Pacific nation reported Tuesday.

Radio Kiribati said incumbent Taneti Maamau garnered 26,053 votes to claim a second four-year term, finishing more than 8,000 votes ahead of opposition leader Banuera Berina. "The president-elect of Kiribati is Taneti Maamau," Chief Justice John Muria told the radio station.

Maamau's government cut ties with Taiwan and resumed diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China in September last year, days after another Pacific nation, the Solomon Islands, did the same.

Berina, who sympathized with the Taiwan authorities, was highly critical of Maamau's move, raising speculation that he could re-build ties with them once elected.

In January, Maamau visited China and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, and the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in May the bilateral relationship had enjoyed sustained and rapid growth, and produced fruitful outcomes in a wide range of areas.

"New historical progress is recorded every day," Wang said in a statement on the reopening of Kiribati's Embassy in China.

With Tuesday's election victory, Maamau will serve a second four-year term, also continuing his role as the country's foreign minister. He will be officially sworn-in at the Kiribati's Parliament House on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Tuesday that China congratulates Maamau on his re-election. 

"Since China and Kiribati resumed diplomatic ties in September 2019, the development of bilateral relations has maintained robust momentum, with fruitful outcomes achieved through cooperation in various fields," Zhao said at a regular press briefing. 

Facts have proved that upholding the one-China principle meets the shared aspiration of the people and is an irresistible trend of the times, he stressed. 

(With input from Xinhua)

(Cover: Kiribati President Taneti Maamau addresses the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. /Reuters)