5 Nov 2019

Kiribati opposition MP calls for president to step down

9:04 pm on 5 November 2019

An opposition MP in Kiribati is calling for the president to step down after the government lost its majority for the first time in three years.

Kiribati President, Taneti Maamau

Kiribati President, Taneti Maamau Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

But president Taneti Maamau, who's facing potential fresh elections by a strengthened opposition, said it was for the people to decide.

It comes after two opposition parties mustered 26 seats in Parliament this week, with the government holding just 20.

An opposition MP with the Boutokaan te Koaua, or BTK Party, Sir Ieremia Tabai, said the president could not run a government with a minority.

Mr Maamau said the people would decide in general elections next year.

The opposition, including a string of government defectors to the newly-founded Kiribati Moa, or Kiribati First Party, have been strengthened by growing discontent over the opening of diplomatic ties with China in favour of Taiwan in September.

The last of the House of Assembly before the elections opened Monday and will conclude next week.

Meanwhile, the Kiribati opposition is seeking High Court backing for a motion of no confidence against the president.

The leader of Kiribati Moa, or the Kiribati First Party, Banuera Berina said the speaker has dismissed attempts to table a motion of no confidence.

He said an objection he filed against the speaker will be heard in the High Court tomorrow.

"The government is going to take every measure to ensure it survives this parliament sitting so that it will have the next three, four or five months to itself to consolidate," Mr Berina said.