China-Backed Government Takes Power in Solomon Islands Despite Voter Rejection

Solomon Islands' new government, backed by China, takes power despite 76% of voters rejecting former PM's party. PM Jeremiah Manele prioritizes legislation for mining, logging, and special economic zones, favoring China's interests.

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Nitish Verma
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China-Backed Government Takes Power in Solomon Islands Despite Voter Rejection

China-Backed Government Takes Power in Solomon Islands Despite Voter Rejection

The Solomon Islands has a winning, islands new government, with Prime Minister Jeremiah Manele at the helm, despite 76% of voters rejecting former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare's party in the recent election. The new government, backed by China, has prioritized legislation for mining, logging, and special economic zones, raising concerns over Beijing's growing influence in the region.

Why this matters: The Solomon Islands' election outcome has significant implications for the balance of power in the Pacific, as China's increasing presence in the region could challenge traditional alliances and security arrangements. This development may also have far-reaching consequences for the environment, economy, and sovereignty of the Solomon Islands and other Pacific nations.

In the April 17 national and provincial elections, Sogavare's OUR Party won only 15 seats in the 50-member national parliament. However, his allies have managed to secure key positions in the government, with Manele, a former foreign minister under Sogavare, taking over as prime minister.

Since 2019, Beijing has invested significantly in the Solomon Islands, including a security deal that could allow for People's Liberation Army forces to deploy in the country and the installation of over 160 Huawei telecom towers. Manele's announcement of plans to prioritize legislation for mining, logging, and special economic zones, which are major priorities for China, has further raised concerns over the country's growing influence in the region.

Professor Anne Marie Brady, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center and professor at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, commented, "In spite of Solomon Islanders voting for change, Sogavare's party is now back in power, in control of all the key portfolios."

The province of Malaita, the most populous in the Solomon Islands, has been a stronghold of opposition to China's influence. In 2019, the Malaitan parliament chose Daniel Suidani as its premier, who issued the Auki Communiqué, rejecting CCP-linked businesses operating in the province.

Sogavare's ties with China deepened in 2019 when he switched diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China and presided over a security deal with the PRC. In July 2023, Sogavare visited China and talked about being "back home."

A high-level new, islands, government New Zealand political delegation, led by Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, has congratulated the new Solomon Islands government on taking office. The delegation met with Prime Minister Manele and several members of his Cabinet, discussing the new government's priorities for its first 100 days in office and New Zealand's development partnership with Solomon Islands. Deputy Prime Minister Peters stated, "We are privileged to meet the new Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet during his government's first ten days in office. This very early visit reflects the deep and long-standing relationship we share based on mutual respect and common values."

The Solomon Islands election outcome, with a China-backed government taking power despite voter rejection of the former prime minister's party, highlights Beijing's growing influence in the region. As the new government prioritizes legislation favoring China's interests, concerns over the country's future direction and the potential for increased Chinese presence in the Pacific are likely to persist.

Key Takeaways

  • China-backed government takes power in Solomon Islands despite voter rejection.
  • New PM Jeremiah Manele prioritizes mining, logging, and special economic zones.
  • China's influence in the region raises concerns over security and sovereignty.
  • Solomon Islands election outcome has implications for Pacific power balance.
  • New Zealand congratulates new government, highlighting deep relationship.