Solomon Islands faces tense wait for election results

By Thomson Reuters Apr 22, 2024 | 6:34 PM

By Kirsty Needham

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Solomon Islands faces a tense wait for an election result after opposition parties pulled ahead of incumbent Prime Minister Manesseh Sogavare’s OUR party, as counting on Tuesday showed independents will be key to forming government.

Last week’s national election was the first since Sogavare struck a security pact with China in 2022, inviting Chinese police into the archipelago and drawing the Pacific Islands nation closer to Beijing.

The election is being watched by China, the U.S. and neighbouring Australia because of the potential impact on regional security.

Sogavare’s police minister, Anthony Veke, lost his seat of West Guadalcanal to the biggest opposition party, Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP), local broadcaster SIBC reported on Tuesday.

The CARE coalition of Matthew Wale’s SIDP, U4C and former prime minister Rick Hou’s Democratic Alliance Party is on 13 seats, ahead of Sogavare’s OUR party on 12 seats in a 50-seat parliament.

One source with direct knowledge told Reuters two independents had also joined CARE on Monday, and it was confident of winning another seat, which would take its numbers to 16.

Another prominent opposition party, Peter Kenilorea Jr’s United, which said it would scrap the China security pact, won seven seats.

Independents and micro parties hold 16 seats, and Sogavare’s OUR party will also seek to win independent support in the race to find the 26 seats needed to form government.

Police and defence forces from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are assisting with election security.

On Monday evening, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Commissioner Mostyn Mangau said in a statement the police force is “a neutral law enforcement organisation which is not politically affiliated”, after he said some people had expressed distrust in security over the election counting process.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Lincoln Feast)