Date for election of Solomon Islands prime minister confirmed

The election of the prime minister in Solomon Islands will take place at 9:30am on Thursday 2 May on the floor of Parliament.

This information was relayed in a notice from the Governor General Sir David Vunagi to MPs in the capital Honiara on Monday.

A copy of the signed notice, sighted by RNZ Pacific states that a 24-hour nomination period for prime ministerial candidates opened at 10am today (29 April 2024) and will close at 4pm tomorrow (Tuesday 30 April 2024).

It says all members of parliament are eligible to be nominated and this must be done by four of their fellow MPs.

Nominated members can withdraw their candidature at any time before the conclusion of the election.

Voting will be presided over by the governor general and carried out by secret ballot.

Although it is held on the floor of parliament the election of the prime minister is classed as a meeting of members and separate from the business of the house.

The first official sitting of parliament which will included the swearing in of all 50 MPs will be held at a date to be determined after a prime minister has been elected and government has been formed.

Coalitions on shaky ground

There are now two distinct political party coalitions in Solomon Islands as lobbying to elect a prime minister and form government continues in Honiara.

The aim of the numbers game is to first secure and then maintain the support of at least 26 out of the 50 MPs in the house and then to try and build that support out to 30 or more to insure yourself against the inevitable loss of one or two MPs due to internal coalition politics.

The two coalition groupings that have emerged after the national election are loosely the same formation of parties that made up the government and opposition in the last parliament.

On one hand, you have caretaker prime minister Manasseh Sogavare’s Our Party, which emerged from the election with 15 MPs.

They have been joined by the People’s First Party who secured three seats but now claim to have added several independent MPs to their roster and the Kadere Party which has one MP.

Sogavare also claims to have the support of several “shadow MPs” who ran as independents but are affiliated to his Our Party.

On the other side, you have the former leader of the opposition Mathew Wale’s Democratic Party, which secured 11 seats in the election, teaming up with Peter Kenilorea Jr’s United Party, who won six seats in the election and also claim to have persuaded some independent MPs to join their ranks post-election. They are joined by two other single MP parties Umi for Change and the Democratic Alliance Party.

A wildcard in the lobbying process this election is the charismatic former prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo, who has staged a massive political comeback after two terms outside of parliament.

GDL, as he is commonly referred to locally, has yet to declare himself with either of the two major coalition groupings and could form a kingmaker bloc if he is able to secure the support of enough independent MPs and lure some away from either of the two established coalitions.

Liquor ban

As Solomon Islands awaits the official dates and times for the election of the prime minister from the Governor General, the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force has been informing the public that a liquor ban which began on 16 April and was supposed to have ended Friday last week has now been extended until 15May.

In a statement, police said the extension is to address anti-social behaviour stemming from irresponsible alcohol consumption and is in line with their commitment to ensuring a safe and secure environment for the election of the prime minister and the formation of government.

Airforce NH90's assist in delivering Ballot boxes to the outer islands before the upcoming solomon island elections.

NZDF wraps up support

Meanwhile, more than 200 New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel who were part of a Joint Task Force sent on behalf of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade to assist with the election have completed their deployment.

The NZDF personnel’s primary role was to help deliver polling kits, ballot boxes and election officials to remote areas of Solomon Islands, ahead of the 17 April election.

Two Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopters, which were operated from the deck of Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) vessel HMNZS Canterbury, played a significant role in transporting officials and election resources.

Squadron Leader Dan Garnettm, who was the Joint Task Force’s chief of staff and co-ordinated operations from the headquarters, said they enjoyed working with Solomon Island Electoral Commission.

“This was my first time visiting Solomon Islands but it’s great to see the strong ties we have to the nation; from commemorating HMNZS Moa (an RNZN minesweeper which sunk off the coast of Guadalcanal during the Second World War) to the support offered by the NZDF at last year’s Pacific Games, as well as previous election support,” Squadron leader Garnett said.

“Those connections enabled us to get stuck in and get the job done this time as well.”

Airforce NH90's assist in delivering Ballot boxes to the outer islands before the upcoming solomon island elections.

The NZDF said after the election tasks were complete, the contingent was also able to provide a variety of other support, including delivering nearly 10 tonnes of educational resources and around 240kg of World Vision aid supplies around the country.

It said crews also conducted aerial surveys of landslides on the island of Santa Isabel, which was impacted by the heavy rains of Tropical Cyclone Jasper last year.

According to NZDF, the survey data will be used by the National Disaster Management Office and Geological Survey Division to assess the risk of secondary disaster impacts and to mitigate further damage in the affected areas.

The NZDF contingent has now departed Solomon Islands on board HMNZS Canterbury and will conduct further engagements in New Caledonia before sailing back to New Zealand.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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