Solomon Islands China-friendly PM Sogavare not standing for new term: ‘geopolitics is at play’

Solomon Islands incumbent Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said he would not be a candidate when lawmakers vote this week for a new prime minister, and his political party would instead back former Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele.

The two major opposition parties in the Solomon Islands struck a coalition deal on Saturday as they vie with Sogavare’s party to form a government after an election delivered no clear winner.

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

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

Solomon Islands opposition figure sounds alarm on China meddling in elections

Sogavare, who narrowly held his on seat in last Wednesday’s national election, announced he would not be a candidate for prime minister at a televised press conference on Monday evening.

Sogavare said his government had been “under pressure from the United States and western allies” and he had been “accused of many things”.

“Geopolitics is at play, after we made a very important decision in 2019,” he said, referring to his government’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

Manele said that if he was elected as prime minister, he would have the “same foreign policy basis – friends to all and enemies to none”.

Election results showed Sogavare’s OUR party won 15 of the 50 seats in parliament, while the opposition CARE coalition has 20. Independents and micro parties won 15 seats, and courting the independents will be the key to reaching the 26 seats needed to form a government. Sogavare said on Monday, his party had support for 28 seats.

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China confirms signing of Solomon Islands security pact, as US warns of regional instability

China confirms signing of Solomon Islands security pact, as US warns of regional instability

Nominations for candidates for prime minister opened on Monday, and lawmakers are expected to vote on Thursday. The nomination vote had previously been expected to take place next week, on May 8.

Sogavare said he had been vilified as prime minister and his family home “razed to the ground, but that did not waver my resolve to continue to serve our people -it has not been easy”.

Sogavare’s house was burnt during anti-government riots in 2021, that also damaged the capital Honiara and prompted him to invite Australian police to restore order. Six months later, he struck a security pact with China.

He said his government, which took construction aid from China to build seven sporting stadiums and a loan to build a Huawei mobile telecommunications network, was transformative and focused on big infrastructure projects.

Opposition parties were critical of the Chinese security deal and said hospitals struggled without medicine, and pledged greater support for education.

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