Page last updated at 02:59 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 03:59 UK

Nauru president calls snap polls

By Phil Mercer
BBC News, Sydney


The president of the tiny South Pacific republic of Nauru has called a snap election after declaring a state of emergency.

President Marcus Stephen said he made the decision to end months of political deadlock.

There has been a stalemate in Nauru's parliament since elections last year.

The small country faces an increasingly uncertain future after Australia closed an offshore camp for processing asylum seekers earlier this year.

Economic woes

The government of Marcus Stephen has the support of nine MPs. So does a hostile opposition, which has been determined to oust the president of the world's smallest republic.

The deadlock has forced the political process to grind to a halt.

The president said he had no choice but to declare a state of emergency that has allowed him to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections next week.

The opposition had tried to topple the government by insisting that ministers with dual citizenship should be barred from office.

A new law to that effect was passed but the vote was only attended by opposition members. The controversial legislation was later overturned by Nauru's Supreme Court.

Mr Stephen has accused his opponents of making a "mockery of democracy" in this remote corner of the South Pacific.

He is hoping that the electorate will give him a clear mandate to govern.

These are difficult times for Nauru's population of 13,000 people. The unemployment rate is estimated to be about 90%.

A century of phosphate mining has left much of the island in ruins. The industry did create huge wealth, but it was frittered away by poor government investments.

The tiny country now has debts approaching a billion dollars.

That financial pain has been made worse by the closure of an Australian detention centre, which has in recent years been Nauru's economic lifeblood.

Last month, gangs attacked the main police station in a violent protest thought to be linked to a dispute over mining contracts.

Police station attacked in Nauru
10 Mar 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Australia ends 'Pacific Solution'
08 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Nauru
19 Jan 08 |  Country profiles

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