15 Apr 2024

Solomon Islands elections: what you need to know

2:52 pm on 15 April 2024
The Solomons’ key partners in the region and abroad continue to support them including Aotearoa and Australia.

The Solomons’ key partners in the region and abroad continue to support them including Aotearoa and Australia. Photo: SIEC

Monday is the final day of election campaigning in Solomon Islands.

There is a palpable sense of anticipation in the country which is holding national and provincial elections simultaneously for the first time.

Over 420,000 registered voters will be called on to elect 50 national and 131 provincial representatives.

When are the elections?

Solomon Islanders will vote on Wednesday, 17 April.

Polls open at 7am and close at 4pm.

The official campaign period ends at midnight on Monday.

These elections were supposed to have been held last year, but were postponed, somewhat controversially, so the country could focus on hosting the Pacific Games.

Who is running for office?

There are 334 registered candidates, 20 of whom are female. Party-affiliated candidates outnumber independent candidates 219 to 115.

Caretaker prime minister Manasseh Sogavare's Ownership Unity and Responsibility (OUR) Party released its manifesto, and its president called on voters to judge it by its track record in the coalition government.

The two major opposition parties - Democratic Alliance and Solomon Islands Democratic party - have signed a pre-election coalition, promising public service pay rises and job creation.

The two parties call themselves the Coalition for Accountability Reform and Empowerment (CARE) and its manifesto said its flagship policies will focus on free education, improving health services, creating employment, salary increases for government workers, reducing the cost of living, and investing in infrastructure.

The group's leader and former opposition leader, Matthew Wale said voters need to elect good quality leaders to tackle the challenges faced by the country.

Who will win?

Historically, only one prime minister has ever won a second election in a row.

The last two elections have seen a high rate of incumbents returning.

Experts are predicting a lot of incumbent MPs will return, but in what formation is the question.

There are political party groupings in Solomon Islands, but any MP can move around independently within that.

What are the main issues?

This is the first election since Solomon Islands cut ties with Taiwan and reaffirmed its connection with China...

How do the elections work?

Public voters vote for MPs, but not the Prime Minister.

After the election, those who are elected to office gather in Honiara and lobby, form camps, and vote in the new PM.

When will we get the results?

Counting will begin shortly after polls close and provisional results will be announced as each constituency count is completed.

However, official results will only be proclaimed by the Governor-General once everything has been verified.

There is likely to be a good deal of negotiating post-election.

Depending on the official results, which will be announced by the Governor-General, lobbying to form the national and provincial governments could last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.

Will they be free and fair?

Most experts say the voting itself usually runs smoothly and fairly.

It is after the election, when the elected MPs gather to form sides and elect the Prime Minister, that a lot of the angst comes from, as that process is not very transparent.

What happened in the last elections in 2019?

Manasseh Sogavare was voted in as the prime minister for the fourth time, but it was shrouded in controversy as 15 MPs abstained from voting.

He polled 34 votes over his rival Matthew Wale in the 50-seat Parliament.