Election postponement in Solomon Islands fuels worries of unrest

The delay, according to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, was required since the state would host the Pacific Games the following year. Others consider it to be a power grab.

Solomon Islands lawmakers agreed on Thursday to push out the country’s general election from 2019 to 2024. Critics have criticised the decision as a power grab and some have expressed concern that it might spark more turmoil.

The country is hosting the Pacific Games in 2019, according to Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, therefore the postponement of seven months, which needed a legislative modification, was essential. It would be too expensive and logistically difficult, he claimed, to have elections at the same time.

However, opposition leader Matthew Wale warned MPs that the decision would jeopardise people’s ability to vote in 2023.

He said that the prime minister’s plan to hold onto power longer than required led to the creation of this measure.

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As a nation willing to alter its constitution for a two-week event, despite the obvious preferences of its people, he claimed Sogavare “has succeeded in making ourselves the laughingstock of the area.”


The bill’s expedited passage through Parliament, which skipped the customary procedure that would have allowed for public comments, infuriated opponents as well.

However, Sogavare was able to easily get the two-thirds majority he required for a constitutional reform because of the vast majority of supporters he had in Parliament compared to those who opposed him.

Sogavare claimed that the postponement wouldn’t affect how the election would be conducted and would guarantee a successful Pacific Games.


He said that the law essentially postponed the dissolution of Parliament.

The 700,000-person nation of the South Pacific is still home to many people who are dubious about Sogavare’s motivations, and others fear it may lead to further conflict.

In Honiara’s capital, unrest broke out in November of last year. An initially nonviolent demonstration protesting, among other things, the government’s choice to change Taiwan’s allegiance to China descended into days of violence, fire, and looting. Three corpses were later discovered in a destroyed structure.

Sogavare survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament the following month.

Since then, Sogavare has signed a new security treaty, strengthening his country’s connections with China. This action has frightened neighbouring nations and others, including the U.S., who worry that it might result in a military buildup in the region.

However, Western attempts to mend fences with the Solomon Islands this year have failed. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, along with other foreign dignitaries, attended a memorial service in Honiara honouring a significant World War II battle, but Sogavare was conspicuously absent from the event.

Then earlier this week, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong declared that her nation has offered to cover the cost of the Solomon Islands election in order to assist it proceed as planned. Sogavare swiftly rebuked them for it and charged Australia with interfering.

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The timing of Wong’s remarks, according to Sogavare, indicated that Australia was attempting to persuade parliamentarians to vote against the constitutional change on Thursday.

Sogavare declared, “This is an assault on our parliamentary democracy and is a direct intervention into our domestic matters by a foreign administration.”

Wong informed Australian parliamentarians that the Solomon Islands had received electoral help for many years and that the government was only reacting to inquiries from the media over the most recent offer.

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