Solomon Islands political chess begins with Manasseh Sogavare re-elected in East Choiseul

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Incumbent prime minister Manasseh Sogavare
Incumbent prime minister Manasseh Sogavare reelected . . . but early days in the election counting and already there have been some upsets. Image: Solomon Islands Govt Comms Unit

By Koroi Hawkins, RNZ Pacific editor in Honiara

Solomon Islands’ incumbent prime minister Manasseh Sogavare has been re-elected in the East Choiseul constituency.

It is the opening move in the political chess match to form the country’s next government.

Returning officer Christopher Makoni made the declaration late last night after a day of counting, according to the national broadcaster SIBC.

Counting continues today in provincial centres across the country.

Solomon Islands chief electoral officer Jasper Anisi told RNZ Pacific on Tuesday all systems go
Solomon Islands chief electoral officer Jasper Anisi told RNZ Pacific on Tuesday all elections materials have been distributed and the country is ready to go to the polls. Image: RNZ Pacific/Koroi Hawkins

So far at least four members of Sogavare’s former cabinet have been re-elected.

But it is still early days as the first upset of the election also took place overnight, with George Tema unseating Silas Tausinga in the West New Georgia-Vona Vona constituency.

According to the Electoral Commission’s political party breakdown of the election results received so far, Sogavare’s Our Party was leading with 34 percent of votes counted on Saturday morning, followed by former opposition leader Matthew Wale’s Solomon Islands Democratic Party which had 26 percent.

Independent election candidates rounded out the top three with 23.4 percent of the votes counted so far. There was then a sharp drop-off to the fourth-placed People’s First Party on 8 percent.

Once all 50 members of Parliament have been officially elected, they will be whisked back from the provinces to the capital, Honiara, where lobbying camps are already being set up in hotels.

One political party leader and election candidate, whose result has yet to be declared, told RNZ Pacific the first of those camps would be at the Honiara Hotel, and that coalition talks were already underway.

Fewer women MPs
There are also likely to be less women in Parliament after another incumbent woman MP, Lillian Maefai, was ousted by Franklyn Derek Wasi in the East Makira Constituency.

Two other incumbent women MPs, Lanelle Tananganda and Ethel Vokia, did not re-contest their seats in this election, making way instead for their husbands — who had formerly lost the seats because of corruption convictions — to stand.

That left Freda Soria Comua, as the last of the four women MPs in the former parliament, still with a chance to make it back into the house.

There are 20 women among the 334 candidates contesting this election.

It is very rare for women to be elected in Solomon Islands’ male-dominated political sphere. Three out of the four women in the last parliament came into the house as proxies for their husbands.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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