17 Dec 2019

Solomons looks to combine national and provincial elections

10:28 am on 17 December 2019

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission is planning to hold the country's next national and provincial elections in 2023 simultaneously.

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Photo: RNZI Koroi Hawkins

That's never been done before in Solomon Islands but last week a successful trial was conducted in the East Makira constituency.

The commission's chief electoral officer Mose Saitala said as the provincial elections were already scheduled for 11 December, they decided to also hold the voting for a national by-election, which was called after the sudden death of the constituency's MP.

Mr Saitala said the initial thinking was to try and minimise costs but the trial revealed there could also be other benefits to holding a joint election.

"There is always a very high turnout to vote in national elections [and] there is always a very low turnout to vote in provincial elections.

"This time around we are so happy because we are conducting both together. The turnout...is very close to 90 percent."

The trial was a resounding success, he said, and they would be looking further into how to make a successful transition to a joint system for the country's next elections.

Before the trial, he was also worried that they might be overburdening staff manning polling stations and causing confusion for voters.

However, he was pleasantly surprised when observing polling on Wednesday to see voting progressing smoothly and without any major incidents or errors.