Solomon Islands leader Sogavare won’t renominate for PM

Kirsty Needham |

Manasseh Sogavare will not be a candidate when MPs in the Solomons meet to elect a prime minister.
Manasseh Sogavare will not be a candidate when MPs in the Solomons meet to elect a prime minister.

Incumbent Manasseh Sogavare says he will not be a candidate when Solomon Islands MPs vote for a new prime minister, with his political party backing former foreign minister Jeremiah Manele instead.

The two major opposition parties in the Solomon Islands struck a coalition deal on Saturday as they vie with Sogavare’s party to form a government after an election delivered no clear winner.

The April 17 election was the first since Sogavare struck a security pact with China in 2022, inviting Chinese police into the Pacific Islands archipelago and drawing the nation closer to Beijing.

Solomon Islands
Manasseh Sogavare says his government had been “under pressure” from the US and Western allies. (Luke Costin/AAP PHOTOS)

The election is being watched by China, the US and neighbouring Australia because of the potential impact on regional security.

Sogavare, who narrowly held onto his seat at the election, announced he would not be a candidate for prime minister at a televised press conference on Monday evening.

He said his government had been “under pressure from the United States and Western allies” and he had been “accused of many things”.

“Geopolitics is at play after we made a very important decision in 2019,” he said, referring to his government’s decision to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.

Manele said if he was elected as prime minister he would have the “same foreign policy basis – friends to all and enemies to none”.

Election results on Wednesday showed Sogavare’s OUR party won 15 of the 50 seats in parliament, while the opposition CARE coalition has 20. 

Independents and micro parties won 15 seats, and courting the independents will be the key to reaching the 26 seats needed to form a government. 

The newly built Solomon Islands National Stadium
Manasseh Sogavare’s government took construction aid from China to build seven sporting stadiums. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Sogavare said on Monday his party had support for 28 seats.

Nominations for candidates for prime minister opened on Monday, and MPs are expected to vote on Thursday. 

The nomination vote had previously been expected to take place on May 8.

Sogavare said he had been vilified as prime minister and his family home “razed to the ground, but that did not waver my resolve to continue to serve our people – it has not been easy”.

Sogavare’s house was burnt during anti-government riots in 2021 that also damaged the capital Honiara and prompted him to invite Australian police to restore order. 

Six months later he struck a security pact with China.

He said his government, which took construction aid from China to build seven sporting stadiums and a loan to build a Huawei mobile telecommunications network, was transformative and focused on big infrastructure projects.

Opposition parties were critical of the Chinese security deal and said hospitals struggled without medicine, and pledged greater support for education.