Solomon Islands last held general elections almost four years ago, on the 5th of April 2006. Another election is due soon – to be more precise, it is due before 24 August 2010. This date can be deduced from sections 73 and 74 of the Constitution, which state:
Prorogation and dissolution
73.(3) Parliament, unless sooner dissolved …, shall continue for four years from the date of the first sitting of Parliament after any general election and shall then stand dissolved.
74. There shall be a general election at such time within four months of every dissolution of Parliament as the Governor-General shall appoint by proclamation published in the Gazette.
The first sitting of the 8th Parliament of Solomon Islands was held on 24 April 2006 (the earlier election of Snyder Rini the Prime Minister on 18 April, which precipitated the “April Riots”, does not constitute a sitting of Parliament). Therefore, Parliament will stand dissolved on 24 April 2010 and the general election shall be held within four months of that date.
I assume that the protocol is that the Governor-General chooses a date based on advice from the Prime Minister, Derek Sikua. If this is correct, it seems likely that the Prime Minister will wait for as long as possible, to maximise the chances that Parliament can reconsider, enact and then implement the Constitution (Political Parties Amendment) Bill 2009 and related legislation.
The Government decided to defer consideration of the Bill after it became clear that it would not achieve the necessary votes of not less than two-thirds of all the members of Parliament on two separate readings in Parliament, as required under Section 61(3) of the Constitution. The Constitutional Review Committee only handed down its report on the Bill on 23 November and as a result, some MPs argued that they would vote against because “most parliamentarians were given very little time to study the contents and intentions of the proposed integrity bill” (Solomon Times, 25/11/09). It remains to be seen whether enough MPs will change their mind when Parliament sits again in March …