Palau Elections: Throughout 2020

An example of a bai, a traditional Palauan meeting house, at the Belau National Museum. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Abasa (public domain)  

Freedom House Rating
Government Type
Presidential Republic in free association with the US
State Elections
Presidential and Legislative Elections
November 2024 (due)
Presidential and Legislative Elections
November 3, 2020
State Elections

Political Context

Palau held national elections for the president and legislature in November 2020. Additonally, Palau has 16 states, each of which elect a governor and a legislature.

State elections happen independently of national elections, and each state does things a bit differently. This year, seven states have elections: Sonsorol (February 28); Kayangel (May 26); Hatohobei (May 29); Ngiwal (July); Ngarchelong (August); Angaur (November); and Ngardmau (December).

Political Context

Palau is a free democracy. Although political parties are allowed, the country does not have them. Rather, candidates run as independents. In 2016, President Tommy Remengesau Jr narrowly won re-election – against his brother-in-law, Surangel Whipps Jr,. However, in the 2020 election, Whipps won, defeating incumbent vice president Raynold Oilouch.

Geopolitical Context

Palau is an independent country in free association with the United States, located strategically in the Pacific. Following World War I, Palau was ruled by Japan. It was the site of fighting between the United States and Japan during World War II, including the major battles of Angaur and Peleliu. The United States subsequently administered Palau until 1994, when Palau became independent.

Palau is one of fourteen countries with diplomatic relations Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China.

Curated News and Analysis

Radio New Zealand (November 6, 2020): Surangel Whipps Jr to be Palau’s new president

Kevin Chen, Taiwan News (November 5, 2020): Taiwan will continue expanding bilateral ties with Palau regardless of election outcome: MOFA

Stratfor (February 22, 2019): China Sets a Course for the U.S.’s Pacific Domain

Kate Lyons, The Guardian (September 7, 2018): ‘Palau against China!’: the tiny island standing up to a giant

Bruno Kaufmann, (February 19, 2018): How Palau’s archipelago forms a democratic whole

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