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Solomon Islands Elects Pro-China Leader Jeremiah Manele

Lawmakers in the Solomon Islands have chosen a pro-China candidate as their prime minister, signaling the nation’s continued alliance with Beijing.

Jeremiah Manele secured the prime ministerial position on Thursday, prevailing over his rival Matthew Wale in a 31-18 vote.

He will take over from former PM Manasseh Sogavare, known for his criticism of Western nations.

Mr. Manele, who served as foreign minister in 2019 when the Solomon Islands shifted its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China, has affirmed his commitment to maintaining close ties with Beijing. This includes upholding the country’s secretive defense and security pact with China, despite calls from opposition candidates for its disclosure to the public or potential revocation.

However, analysts anticipate a more diplomatic approach from Mr. Manele towards the Solomons’ traditional Western partners, such as Australia, compared to his predecessor. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was quick to extend his congratulations, emphasizing the strong ties between Australia and the Solomon Islands.

The April general election saw voters elect MPs nationwide, but the prime minister is determined through a vote by elected representatives, which occurred on Thursday morning.

Mr. Sogavare surprised many by opting not to contest the prime ministerial race following weaker-than-expected results for his party in the April election. Instead, he formed a new coalition and endorsed Mr. Manele as the prime ministerial candidate.

During Mr. Sogavare’s tenure, China significantly increased its investment in the Solomon Islands, contributing to his polarizing image. He stood alongside Mr. Manele as the new leader addressed the media on Thursday after his victory, expressing his commitment to prioritizing the interests of the country and its people.

Mr. Manele highlighted the peaceful conduct of the election, contrasting it with previous instances of violence and riots. The presence of hundreds of police and military officers from Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and Papua New Guinea since last month has served as a peacekeeping force.

In his address, Mr. Manele pledged to improve the economic conditions for the country’s residents, many of whom face challenges such as rising living costs. The Solomon Islands, with a population of around 700,000 spread across numerous islands, grapple with limited access to basic services like electricity, education, healthcare, and transportation, particularly outside the capital, Honiara.

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