The Solomon Star has published results of polling for the seat of East Honiara that found that Auditor General Edward Ronia was the preferred candidate, followed by Douglas Ete (CEO of the National Referral Hospital) and Paul Maenu (businessman and former member for Lau Mbaelelea, 2001-06). The incumbent, Silas Milikada, came in fourth.
East Honiara is an interesting seat to follow for a couple of reasons …
First, it has been held on three occasions by prominent political figure, Charles Dausabea – in 1990-93, 1997-2001 and 2006-08. He first won the seat in a by-election in December 1990, following the resignation of Bart Ulufa’alu. It seems he was initially judged to have won the 1993 election but a subsequent petition overturned this result and John Maetia Kauliuae won the seat at the ensuing by-election.
Dausabea won the seat back in 1997, was defeated by Simeon Bouro in 2001 and won it a third time in 2006 but then vacated his seat in July 2008 after being jailed for fraud. Silas Milikada won the subsequent by election held on 23 September 2008.
East Honiara is also interesting because it has recently become the most hotly contested seat in the country. At the 2006 election, there were 20 candidates – the most of any seat in that election – and at the 2008 by-election, there were 26, which may be the highest number of candidates for any seat in any election held in Solomons. (This was not always the case: in both the 1993 and 2001 elections, there were just seven candidates in East Honiara.)
Many of past and current candidates are also fairly prominent in their fields. As noted above, the list includes the Auditor General (Ronia), CEO of the National Referral Hospital (Ete), prominent businesspeople and former politicians (Dausabea, Maenu and Simeon Bouro) and a former permanent secretary for Health (Manimu).
In other words, East Honiara is a seat whose member is likely to punch above his (or perhaps her) weight in Parliament.
Commentary on the poll
The poll was conducted by Bob Pollard’s Pasifiki Services and surveyed 719 people. Of these, 490 were registered voters, equivalent to just under 6% of the votes cast (or 1.6% of registered voters) in East Honiara in the 2006 election.
This suggests that the sample size is not too bad however the survey does have a couple of limitations. First, since it is only the 490 registered voters whose views count on election day, it would be useful to know who they preferred.
Second, it is not enough even to know the views of registered voters – we also need to know whether they intend to vote in Honiara or their home island. This is because all three Honiara seats typically have abnormally low ‘voter turn-outs’ because many Honiara folk are also registered elsewhere. For example, in 2006, the three Honiara seats had turn-outs of 23%, 27% and 33% whereas the median turn-out was 64% – this is neatly illustrated in Fraenkel 2008, Table 6.1, p.152.)
I do wonder a little about a result that puts the incumbent, Silas Milikada, in fourth place given that it was less than two years ago that he won the by election with 3,453 votes, more than three times the vote of either Dr Manimu (2nd place, 1,072 votes) or Mr Ronia (3rd place, 986 votes). (Results as reported in the Solomon Times, 26/09/08.)
But let’s not get too carried away by nit-picking. After all, polls are a pretty recent thing in Solomons (as far as I’m aware) and so perhaps we should appreciate them for what they are, whilst gently encouraging them to improve.