Solomon Islands' pro-China PM retains seat as election count continues

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By Kirsty Needham

(Reuters) -The Solomon Islands' pro-China Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has retained his seat in the national election, local media reported late on Friday but it won't be known for days if his party has won enough support to form the next government.

Wednesday's election was the first since Sogavare struck a security pact with China in 2022 and drew the Pacific Islands nation closer to Beijing, in moves that concerned the U.S. and Australia because of the potential impact on regional security.

Provisional results show that Sogavare has retained his seat of East Choiseul, national broadcaster SIBC reported.

Full results for the 50-member national parliament, expected to be known by Monday, will indicate whether any party has achieved a majority, or whether negotiations to form a coalition are needed before a new prime minister is selected.

The results of the national and provincial elections held in the Solomon Islands are being announced over several days and are being closely watched by China, the U.S. and Australia.

Daniel Suidani, a prominent critic of China who was the premier of Malaita province until he was ejected in a no-confidence vote last year, has been re-elected to the Malaita provincial assembly, election officials said.

As premier he had banned Chinese companies from Malaita, the Solomon Islands' most populous province, and accepted U.S. development aid before being ousted last year in a no-confidence vote by lawmakers for his refusal to recognise China.


China sent its top envoy for the South Pacific to Malaita province this month to sign a memorandum of understanding with the new premier, Martin Fini. Fini lost his seat in the provincial assembly, electoral officials said on Friday, which means he will not be eligible to continue as premier.

Suidani told Reuters that his win, the ousting of the pro-China Fini by voters, and the election of several new lawmakers to the provincial assembly in Malaita showed that voters wanted to see change in government.

"It's a joy for all Malaitians who believe in democracy," he said in a telephone interview, adding that counting was still underway and that the final numbers in the provincial assembly were unknown.

"From my point of view, what Malaita is doing at the moment, they are trying to rescue the province from bad leadership, corruption," he added.

Police and defence forces from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are assisting with election security.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed, Gerry Doyle and Gareth Jones)