Koror-- With at least 2,000 absentee ballots still to be tabulated next week, Vice President Raynold Oilouch conceded the presidential race to his opponent, Surangel Whipps Jr., former senator and brother-in-law of outgoing President Tommy Remengesau.
“The election is over and the people have spoken. So, let me first congratulate President-elect Surangel Jr. and all those elected to lead our next government," Oilouch said in a concession statement this afternoon.
Oilouch said Palauan people have clearly chosen their new president.
While absentee votes remain uncounted, Oilouch said given the wide gap of the votes between him and Whipps, the “right thing to do” is to accept the Palauans choice. "On behalf of my wife and family, I want to thank all the Palauan people who voted, and to especially thank those who voted for me and the many hardworking supporters who worked tirelessly throughout the campaign,” he said.
All votes cast in Palau had been tabulated as of Wednesday night. Preliminary results showed Whipps Jr. holding a clear advantage with a lead of 1,202 votes over Oilouch.
Whipps secured 4,640 out of the 8,212 votes cast in the presidential race. Oilouch garnered 3,438 votes. Palau has 16,760 registered voters.
On the campaign trail, Oilouch acknowledged that running against Whipps would be an uphill battle. “We did the best we could but I guess God has other plans for us. Be proud of what we did. Finally, let’s continue to pray for our country as we sail together through this challenging time. God bless Palau and all the people of Palau,” Oilouch added in his statement.
Whipps and Oilouch headed to the general elections after the September primary that counted out Alan Seid and Johnson Toribiong.
Remengesau did not endorse any candidate.
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Whipps' victory is seen as an indication of Palauans' desire for a change. With President Tommy Remengesau Jr. ending his two four-year terms in office, the election results hinted of a resistance to a perceived extension of the current administration's governance. Oilouch, the sitting vice president, ran on a campaign to provide the current stability the country enjoys under Remengesau’s administration.
Whipps ran against Remengesau Jr., who was then running for re-election, in the November 2016 presidential election. It was a close call for Remengesau, who won 5,109 votes while Whipps received 4,854 votes.
Economy was also a defining issue for most voters amid the Covid-related tourism slump. Whipps, a businessman, campaigned on tax reforms and alternative source of revenue beside tourism. Heis the CEO and president of Surangel & Sons Co. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Whipps served as Palau senator from 2008 - 2016.
He believes in investing in the Palauan people and maintaining good relationships with the United States and Taiwan. In a press conference on Wednesday, Remengesau told local reporters that a transition process will be
implemented for the new administration.
The president also said that he had a meeting with the other ministries, directors, and other staff members to list down other work that needs to be done before the transition takes place.