Hiccups in Solomon Is vote but results expected soon

Mistakes have happened in the Solomon Islands election but authorities are confident they will not affect the result.

The strategically located Pacific nation, whose rapidly deepening ties with China have grabbed international headlines, held its biggest election on Wednesday, with more than 420,000 registered voters having the chance to pick their next leaders.

But in a handful of the 1100 polling stations across the nation's hundreds of islands, electoral officials mistakenly handed out ballot papers meant to be reserved for rare occasions.

When the error became clear on Thursday, a decision was made to accept the votes as they had been cast.

The country's electoral commissioner said he was satisfied with the level of training for his 6000 electoral officers and shielded them from blame.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is the frontrunner to form government.

"Mistakes happen, we are just humans," Jasper Highwood Anisi told reporters.

Movement of ballot boxes and verification processes had him confident results for the 50-seat parliament would begin flowing at the weekend.

“I'm estimating that late Sunday or early Monday, most of the (national) constituency results should be out," he said.

The election has been keenly watched by US allies and China, having been the first vote since Honiara's recognition of Beijing prompted a torrent of funds flowing from communist superpower.

Close neighbour and the Solomons' largest donor, Australia, earlier said it would work closely with pro-Beijing leader Manasseh Sogavare if he maintained power.

A counting centre
Electoral officials have been moving ballot boxes to central counting centres ahead of the tally.

The 69-year-old, whose cosying up to China defined his last term and his election platform, is the frontrunner to form government, though he faces many rivals including former prime ministers.

He is expected to travel to the capital, Honiara, once results are declared in his East Choiseul seat and other electorates.

"Whatever those results are, whatever government is ultimately formed in the Solomon Islands, we will endeavour to work very closely with them," Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles told ABC.

Mr Marles said Australia took heart from the fact Mr Sogavare had made clear he did not want a foreign military base in the Solomons.

Australia and other US allies were spooked in 2022 after Mr Sogavare struck a security pact with Beijing that brought Chinese police to the island.

The Pacific island nation's election is being closely watched by both the US and China.

The Solomons, like most Pacific nations, has no military but local police can request assistance from foreign forces, usually Australia and New Zealand.

The 2022 pact, for which only some details have been publicised, was struck months after major riots in the capital, which particularly devastated Honiara's Chinatown.

The widespread damage amounted to about 6.5 per cent of GDP, with the scars still evident today.

The Chinese money comes as the Solomons recently slid backwards on the United Nations Human Development Index to 156th, marginally ahead of Syria and Haiti.

It has struggled to keep its youthful population in schooling while gross national income per capita languishes about $US2270 ($A3520).

A voter
Election authorities will prioritise tallying up ballots for local seats before the national count.

Long-time women's rights activist and candidate Afu Billy, who campaigned on a message of leaving no one behind, said she hoped the next parliament could diversify the economy worth $US1.8 billion ($A2.8 billion) annually.

"We need to vote in members of parliament who do things that are not business-as-usual," she told AAP on Thursday.

"Last year there were about 30,000 tourists who came to the Solomons and brought in about $SB500 million ($A100 million).

"Just think if we had a million tourists."

Whatever the results, it only forms stage one of deciding the country's next leadership.

Unless Mr Sogavare's revived Ownership, Unity and Responsibility Party wins an unprecedented majority, MPs-elect will begin horse trading in Honiara hotels next week to form a coalition government.

Negotiations can take weeks.

This article was made possible through the Melbourne Press Club's Michael Gordon Journalism Fellowship Program.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store