Written by Cameron Chambers – September 19, 2022
The Solomon Islands has canceled planned elections this past week. This comes as lawmakers in the Pacific Island state handed Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare a win by delaying the elections which will allow the Prime Minister Sogavare to remain in office longer. The measure received 37 votes in favor and nine against, which would move the election to April 2024, extending both executive and legislative terms. Furthermore, there is speculation that the Prime Minister Sogavare has not significantly prepared for elections since early 2021. Prime Minister Sogavare argued that the island “could not afford to hold elections and host the Pacific Games next year”. Opposition lawmakers are concerned that such a cancellation would allow prime minister Sogavare to “consolidate power.” This move to withhold elections is a worrying sign of authoritarian shrift in the Island’s governance.
Australia has offered to help fund the election to ease the economic burden on the island state. However, Prime Minister Sogavare refused the offer which he saw as an attempt to interfere in the elections by a foreign nation. This may further strain relations between the Island, Australia, and the United States.
The Solomon Islands further strained relations by halting naval visits from the United States and the United Kingdom. The USCG Oliver Henry and HMS Spey were denied diplomatic clearance to port at the island. In response, the Prime Minister Sogavare stated that there is now a universal moratorium on all naval visits to the Island. Followed by the announcement, a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands was drafted in April. Australia views this agreement as a potential security threat that “changes the calculus of operations in the Pacific.”
These developments are of worry due to the lack of U.S. and Australian commitment to the Pacific Islands in the past two decades. It remains to be seen how the pacific island states will respond and how U.S. engagement will change in the long-neglected region.
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