23 Feb 2006

Solomons' leader confident that election on April 5th will be free and run smoothly

7:29 pm on 23 February 2006

The Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, says he expects a free and safe general election when the nation goes to the polls on April 5.

It will be the first election since the Regional Assistance Mission, or RAMSI, arrived in the country to restore law and order.

The nomination period for candidates for the 50-seat house officially opens today after the announcement of the poll date by the Governor-General, Nathaniel Waena.

Sir Allen says he is confident that the election will run smoothly and that people will be able to exercise their democratic rights, free of threats.

He also says that the Pacific Islands Forum, the United Nations Development Programme and the Commonwealth Secretariat will be sending observers to monitor the poll.

The chief electoral officer, Musu Kevu, says the roll is still being updated but is currently believed to include more than 340 thousand potential voters.

A team from the UNDP is already in Solomon Islands to prepare for the monitors' arrival.

Their team leader, Steven Wagenshill, explains, the role is to co-ordinate the 50 or 60 monitors that are expected for the April poll.

"So we are charged with helping organise the information for them, briefing packets, and then, especially the deployment of observers - the folks who fly in from other countries at the request of their governments to observe the election process here."