04/22/2024, 17.06
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Solomon Islands’s pro-Chinese prime minister loses majority

Manasseh Sogavare and his party took 12 seats. Although six have not yet been called, the ruling party will not have a majority. Other parties want to reduce Beijing's influence. Tensions rose during the campaign, with clashes between rival villages. Negotiations for the next government  could take weeks.

Honiara (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has suffered a setback at the polls and no longer has a majority in parliament, which will force him to broaden his coalition if he wants to stay in power.

Provisional results from last week’s election, released by public television today, show that the pro-China Manasseh Sogavare and his OUR Party[*] won 12 seats with six contests still to be decided, well below the 26 needed in the 50-member National Parliament.

The negotiations to form the new government will be closely monitored abroad, especially in Beijing, which has recently boosted ties with Honiara for control of the South Pacific.

Sogavare signed a security pact with China in 2022 and has overseen and supported the rapid expansion of Chinese interests in the country.

His two main rival parties, which won 12 seats each, have both expressed a desire to reduce China's influence if they are part of the government.

The rest of the seats are divided between minor parties and independents who are unpredictable, referred to by the islanders as "grasshoppers" because they "jump" from one party and leader to another, trying to sell their seat and support to the highest bidder.

In the past, elections have triggered tensions and this time was no differentcwith limited violent incidents.

Over the weekend, police intervened when violence broke out between two villages on the island of Malaita, over the election result. A group of men damaged a "water source, church building, and dwelling houses” in a nearby village after the vote did not go their way.

In the coming days, politicians with common interests will begin to gather in "camps" based in casinos and hotels in Honiara, trying to forge a governing majority.

This process could take days, if not weeks, at the end of which the name of the new prime minister will be announced.

Located 1,600 kilometers northeast of Australia, the Solomon Islands have a population of about 700,000, spread over six main islands: Choiseul, Guadalcanal, Makira, Malaita, New Georgia, and Santa Isabel.

Voting to choose 50 lawmakers took place last Wednesday from 7 am to 4 pm. Once a governing coalition is formed, a prime minister will be appointed.

Sogavare first came to power in 2000 and ruled for 17 months. He served again in 2006 for 18 months, and was then elected in 2014, but did not finish his four-year term following a vote of no confidence.

In 2021, when anti-government unrest broke out, he was forced to call in Australian security forces to restore order.

[*] Ownership, Unity and Responsibility Party.

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Taiwan breaks relations with the Solomon Islands after the latter chooses China
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