Solomon Islands Elects China-Friendly Jeremiah Manele as New Prime Minister

Solomon Islands elects China-friendly Jeremiah Manele as new PM, raising concerns among Western allies over growing China influence in the Pacific region.

Shivani Chauhan
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Solomon Islands Elects China-Friendly Jeremiah Manele as New Prime Minister

Solomon Islands Elects China-Friendly Jeremiah Manele as New Prime Minister

The Solomon Islands parliament has elected Jeremiah Manele, a China-friendly former foreign minister, as the new prime minister. Manele won 31 out of 50 votes in a secret ballot, defeating opposition leader Matthew Wale. The election was closely watched by China, the United States, and Australia due to the potential impact on regional security, as the outgoing prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, had struck a security pact with China in 2022.

Manele has pledged to continue the Pacific nation's foreign policy that saw it grow closer to China. His OUR party, which has pledged to build more infrastructure, won 15 seats and gained four more under a renewed coalition, allowing it to reach the 26 seats needed for a majority in the 50-seat parliament. The withdrawal of pro-Beijing former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare from the contest to make way for Manele as their party's candidate suggests that the country could maintain close ties with China.

Why this matters: The election of Manele raises concerns among Western allies about the Solomon Islands' growing relationship with China and its potential implications for regional security. As China continues to extend its influence in the Pacific, a region traditionally dominated by the U.S. and Australia, Manele's victory could further Beijing's military and strategic aims across the region.

Manele is seen as a capable leader with a "strong track record of working well with all international partners," in contrast to the "polarizing figure" of Sogavare. He has promised to govern with integrity and put his nation's interests first, urging against any post-election violence. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese congratulated Manele on his election, stating that Australia and Solomon Islands are close friends and their futures are connected.

The opposition has criticized the government's failure to create jobs and the economy's dominance by logging and mining companies that ship resources to China, while health clinics struggle to obtain basic medications. Opposition leader Matthew Wale also criticized the lobbying process, saying it was dominated by "people asking for money and positions" rather than focusing on policy and the future of the country.

Manele's appointment is seen as a "big change in style" for the Solomon Islands. He has said he will keep the "same foreign policy basis – friends to all and enemies to none," and focus on improving the economy and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The election took place amid heightened security in the capital, Honiara, with police patrolling the parliamentary grounds to prevent potential unrest. Manele is expected to be sworn into office later in the day, following tradition.

Key Takeaways

  • Jeremiah Manele elected as new PM of Solomon Islands, defeating opposition leader
  • Manele pledges to continue China-friendly foreign policy of outgoing PM Sogavare
  • Manele's election raises concerns among Western allies about China's growing influence
  • Opposition criticizes government's failure to create jobs, economy's reliance on logging
  • Manele promises to govern with integrity and focus on economy, COVID-19 recovery