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China’s Influence Tested: Pro-China PM’s Party Loses Majority in Solomon Islands

Daniel Kim Views  

솔로몬제도 총선서 '친중' 여당 과반 불발될 듯…中 촉각
Last July 10th, Manasseh Sogavare (left), Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, shook hands with Li Qiang, the Premier of China, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, following a bilateral agreement signing between the two nations. EPA-Yonhap News

In the recent general election in the Solomon Islands, the ruling party led by the pro-China Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare failed to secure a majority. This suggests the weakening of China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region, a strategic area that has drawn attention due to the rivalry between China and the United States.

According to Reuters and other sources on the 23rd, 48 of the 50 seats contested in the general election held on the 17th have been decided so far. Sogavare’s party, Our Party, only won 12 seats.

The CARE coalition, formed by former Prime Minister Rick Hou and several opposition figures, won 13 seats. The Unity Party (UP), another opposition coalition led by Peter Kenilorea Jr., the son of the first Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, secured 7 seats. The Unity Party has been calling for a review of the security agreement with China and improved relations with Taiwan under the leadership of Kenilorea Jr.

Independent candidates and minor parties won the remaining 16 seats. The vote count is still underway.

Because the influence of China in this region could fluctuate depending on the outcome, the election results in the Solomon Islands, a country with a population of 700,000, are attracting international attention.

Prime Minister Sogavare, known for his pro-China stance, signed a bilateral security cooperation agreement with China in 2022, paving the way for China in the Pacific region. As a result, the Solomon Islands emerged as one of the central countries in the US-China rivalry, potentially enabling China to establish a military foothold in a place that has long been considered the backyard of US allies Australia and New Zealand.

Sogavare, who became the Prime Minister for the fourth time in 2019 and is now seeking a fifth term, severed diplomatic ties with long-time ally Taiwan and established diplomatic relations with China. In 2022, he signed a security agreement with China that allowed for the dispatch of troops in emergencies and provided security support.

If re-elected, Sogavare plans to strengthen the pro-China policy further. On the other hand, the opposition calls for a review, arguing the parliament did not correctly approve the security agreement with China.

Therefore, while China would prefer Sogavare to be re-elected, the West, including the United States, is rooting for the opposition.

Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Solomon Islands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recently stated in a briefing that “China has always adhered to the principle of non-interference in internal affairs” and “supports the people of the Solomon Islands in choosing their path.”

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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