Archive for the ‘2010 election’ Category

Election date – waiting, waiting …

May 15, 2010

The date for the 2010 Solomon Islands election has been decided and a recommendation sent to the Governor General, according to the Electoral Commissioner, Polycarp Haununu (Sololomon Star, 13/05/10, Island Sun, 12/05/10). However, the date won’t be announced until the Governor General returns from Taiwan on the 19th.

Mr Haununu has given us some clues, however. He states that the date is NOT the 29th of July as reported by Alfred Sasako, nor is it any of the other three dates that Sasako mentioned. (In an earlier post, I also claimed that voting would be held on 29 July so, based on the latest reports, I stand ready to humble pie …)

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Profile – Francis Billy Hilly

May 3, 2010

Francis Billy Hilly

In the lead-up to the election, I thought it would be interesting to write profiles for some prominent MPs or candidates. I’ve decided to start with a former Prime Minister and the newly appointed Minister for Finance, Francis Billy Hilly. He’s had a long career, so I’ve split write-up into two posts. This first post covers his early political career and along the way, discusses the ‘Western breakaway movement of the late 1970s and also the downfall of the Kenilorea government in 1981.

Note: the second post, recounting Billy Hilly’s reign as PM, is now available here.

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Election date: (NOT) 29 July

April 27, 2010

Update (26/05/2010): the Solomon Star reports that PM Sikua told a group of university students in PNG that the election will be held on Wednesday, 4 August. In so doing, I suspect he has accidentally pre-empted the Governor General, who would ordinarily announce the date. Clearly my previous post (below) was incorrect but I’m pretty sure this is because the government changed its mind sometime in the last few weeks.

Original post: The 8th national election in Solomon Islands since independence will be held on Thursday 29 July, according to a report by Alfred Sasako in Monday’s Solomon Star and also according to separate, well-placed gossip gathered by yours truly in Port Moresby. (Dammit, if Sasako hadn’t got there first, I could’ve had my first scoop!)

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2010 election update

April 17, 2010

Fred Fono

Update (25/07/10): my latest election update is available here.

It’s about time for an update on the upcoming election. There have been a few interesting developments including the CNURA coalition agreement, Fred Fono’s new political party and the announcement of two other new parties.

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The Party party

April 17, 2010

Update (25/07/10): I now have a complete list of parties contesting the 2010 election here.

I have been trying to keep track of the proliferation of new political parties (see previous posts here and here). My current tally is that nine new parties have been established and up to six existing parties are likely to re-contest.

This suggests that, once again, there is strong interest in the upcoming election, even before the election date is announced. And the true number of parties may be even higher. A couple of weeks ago, Radio Australia reported that 11 new parties have declared their intention to run in the upcoming elections.

Here is my latest tally …

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East Honiara – Poll position

March 20, 2010

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 …

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2010 Elections – parties & campaign manifestos

March 13, 2010

Update (25/07/10): I now have a complete list of parties contesting the 2010 election here.

I now count six new parties that have been established in the lead-up to this year’s elections. I mentioned five of them in an earlier post. The latest addition is the People’s Federation Party (Director General: Rudolf Henry Dorah, Solomon Star, 12/03/10).

We should also keep an eye out for two other groups that may get established before the election:

  • In September 2009, the Malaita Maasina Forum announced that it was drafting a constitution for a new Malaita Political Party. The announcement was made by its General Secretary, William Gua, (Solomon Times, 17/09/09), and its spokesperson, Hudson Kwalea (RNZI, 03/09/09).
  • And back in 2008, there was a brief scandal when it was suggested that up to 18 MPs (including several government ministers) were given an ultimatum to pay up borrowed monies or join a new political party – the Solomons National Alliance Party (SNAP, Solomon Times, 08/10/08).  The Solomom Times report stated that SNAP had the ‘backing of wealthy Honiara businessman, Bobo Dettke’. According to Jon Fraenkel’s account of the 2006 election (p.173), Dettke was rumoured to have been a key player in the splinter group of mostly Guale MPs who set up camp at Pacific Casino Hotel after breaking away from the coalition at Iron Bottom Sound Hotel. Fraenkel states: ‘it was widely rumoured that the bills for their rooms and expenses … were being paid for by Dettke (reportedly at a cost of SI$2 million)’.

Election issues & campaign manifestos

The parties and candidates have begun announcing their various election manifestos and promises. Whilst it is unclear how much we can learn from these statements, they at least give some indication of what issues the candidates think are of concern to the electorate. Based on my casual reading of the online media, here is a sample of the issues that parties and candidates have raised so far:

  • land issues,
  • road services,
  • access to finance,
  • State Government,
  • peace and reconciliation,
  • delivery of services to rural people, and
  • corruption.

I’ve listed below the policy positions expressed by four parties that I’m aware of.

1. OUR Party, led by Mannaseh Sogavare, has already held campaign launches in Honiara, Guadalcanal, Choiseul, Western and Malaita – a level of nation-wide campaigning that is perhaps unprecedented in Solomons’ political history. Key policy issues addressed by Sogavare include:

  • Decentralization and bottom-up strategy: OUR part has frequently committed to decentralize economic development and reintroduce the ‘bottom-up development strategy’ previously pursued by Sogavare’s Grand Coalition for Change Government (GCCG, 2006-07).
  • Foreign investment strategy: Mr Sogavare says OUR Party will move away from the ‘hands off leave it to the private sector strategy advanced by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’ and instead implement a foreign investment strategy ‘that will attract the right kind of investors into the country, targeting the strengths and potentials of the country in the rural areas’ (Solomon Times, 18/02/10).
  • State Government: OUR Party has supported long-standing calls for the adoption of state government (Solomon Star, 20/02/10).
  • Guadalcanal – return of alienated land: Sogavare assured the people of Guadalcanal of his party’s commitment to return all land alienated to original landowners (Solomon Star, 09/02/10).
  • Guadalcanal – bona fide demands: OUR Party assured the people of Guadalcanal of its commitment to address the issues behind their outstanding bona-fide demands to the national government (Solomon Star, 10/02/10). (Note: the ‘bona fide’ demands have a long history going back at least to the 1980s and were often cited in the context of the 1998-2003 Tensions. For more details, see Jon Fraenkel, The Manipulation of Custom, Ch.3 and App.2.)
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission: OUR Party has stated that the current Truth and Reconciliation Commission is an example of the country taking an approach to peace and reconciliation that is overly academic, costly and ‘guided by foreign concepts’ (Solomon Star, 20/02/10). All reports on the TRC by the Solomon Times are available here.
  • Western & Choiseul – spill-over effects of the Bougainville crisis: OUR Party has said that it recognises that the people of Western and Choiseul provinces have some outstanding claims with the government over the spill-over effects of the Bougainville crisis (Solomon Star, 20/02/10).
  • Western Province – land and logging issues: OUR Party has acknowledged ‘extreme examples of gross injustice to people in the Western Province’ in relation to logging activities that resulted in only limited returns to the original landowners (Solomon Times, 16/02/10).

2. The People’s Power Action Party, headed by Robert Wales Feratelia, has announced plans to establish a ‘Micro-finance Bank for Solomon Islands’ because ‘currently the banking sector has placed a stigma on the poor, excluding their access to banking resources’. The new Bank would also ‘be the financial mechanism to properly coordinate the development funds allocated by the government to the constituencies, namely, the RCDF, the Millennium Goal Development Fund, the Micro Projects Fund, and Rural Livelihood Fund.’  (Solomon Star, 11/02/10)

3. The People’s Federaration Party says that it wants to address five ‘crises’ facing Solomons (Solomon Star, 12/03/10):

  • An increasing impoverished rural population with deep seated land disputes threatening to wreak havoc on our economy,
  • A rotten Westminster system abused by too many MPs for personal gain,
  • An unbiased (sic) banking system that serves the rich at the expense of the poor,
  • A leadership crisis; and
  • The threat of climate change.

4. Finally, the President of the People’s Alliance Party (PAP), James Mekab, wants to improve roads through reform of the Department of Works and Engineering: ‘PAP sees this division as an engineering force for economic development for our country. PAP will bring dozens of well qualified engineering manpower to supervise the roads developments around our country’ (Solomon Star, 10/03/10).

Other election tidbits

Here are a few other interesting tidbits that I stumbled across whilst researching this post.

  • New campaign techniques for the 2010 election: Evans Wasuka has written an interesting article in the March edition of Island Business magazine. Wasuka discusses some of the new campaign techniques that are already evident (such as OUR party’s plan to conduct launches in all nine provinces, and ASIP’s decision to broadcast its launch on national radio). He suggests that the increased party political campaigning may already be a response to the possible enactment of the Political Parties Integrity Bill.
  • Family ties: Wasuka also points out that ASIP co-founder and former member for West Makira (2000-01), Jackson Sunaone (or Sunaune), is the brother of former Prime Minister late Solomon Sunaone Mamaloni. No doubt this is well known to most Solomon Islanders but I confess that I had missed this connection until now.
  • The other MPs in OUR party: I was curious to know which other MPs had joined Manasseh Sogavare to found OUR party. A letter writer to the Solomon Star (06/03/10), Williamson Naiaboara, has identified at least seven of them: Manasseh Sogavare (East Choiseul), Patteson Oti (Temotu Nende), Bernard Ghiro (Central Makira), Japhet Waipora (West Makira), Peter Shanel (Central Guadalcanal), Isaac Inoke (West Honiara), Francis Zama (South New Georgia/Rendova/Tetepare).
  • Another letter writer, Ricky Turi (10/03/10), has made some interesting comments about a possible candidate for West Honiara, Tran Namson, who apparently is the owner of Honiara Casino. In his letter, Turi states that: ‘In past elections, Namson reportedly backed his former associates, Charles Dausabea (Former MP of East Honiara) and the current member of Central Honiara, Nelson Ne’e.’

Solomons elections 2010 – Party of Five

February 15, 2010

Update (25/07/10): I now have a complete list of parties contesting the 2010 election here.

One certainty of the pre-election period in Solomons is that old parties will dust off their slogans and new parties will mushroom. By my count, five new parties have already been established this year, at a rate of almost one per week!

  • The Ownership, Unity and Responsibility (OUR) party, co-founded by former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and 7-8 other MPs from the Grand Coalition for Change Government (GCCG). This is at least the third party founded by Mr Sogavare following the People’s Progressive Party (established prior to the 2001 election) and the Social Credit (SoCred) Party (established prior to the 2006 election).
  • The Autonomous Solomon Islanders Party (ASIP),  co-founded by former politicians Jackson Sunaone (member for West Makira, 2000-01, elected at a by election held following the death of Solomon Mamaloni) and Denis Lulei (member for West Isabel, 1980-89 and for Maringe-Kokota, 1993-97). An earlier report in the Solomon Star (9/12/09) states that the ASIP executive also includes former member for Gao-Bugotu (2001-06) and minister in the Kemakeza government, Basil Manelegua.

This is a pretty impressive number considering that there are already seven parties nominally represented in Parliament, according to the Solomons Parliament web site).

To give some perspective, in a 2006 article, Sam Alasia reported that there were 16 parties contesting the 2006 elections, which was itself a big increase from the 10 and 9 in the previous two elections (Alasia 2006, “Rainbows across the mountains: the first post-RAMSI general election, p.122). For what it’s worth, I only counted 13 parties during the 2006 elections but I’ll readily defer to Sam on this one.

And while we’re keeping track, the seven parties listed on the Parliament web site are:

  • People’s Alliance Party (PAP, est. 1979)
    (prominent members: Allan Kemakeza, Fred Fono)
  • Association of Independent Members (AIM, est. c.2001)
    (prominent members: Snyder Rini, Tommy Chan)
  • Social Credit (SoCred) Party (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Manasseh Sogavare)
  • Liberal Party (est. 1988)
    (prominent members: late Bart Ulufa’alu, Japhet Waipora, Milner Tozaka)
  • Democratic Party (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Matthew Wale, Steve Abana)
  • Nasnol Pati (est. c.1997)
    (prominent members: Francis Billy Hilly)
  • Party for Rural Advancement (est. 2006)
    (prominent members: Job Dudley Tausinga, Gordon Darcy Lilo)

Solomons elections 2010 – a tasty date?

February 7, 2010

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.

General elections

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 …

2010 elections – a House with more seats?

February 3, 2010

Currently, there are 50 seats in the Solomons parliament. There were only 38 seats when it was established in 1978 and it has only increased twice since (to 47 seats before the 1993 election and then to 50 seats before the 1997 election).

Section 54 of the Constitution (cited in full at the end of this post) states that there shall be 30-50 seats in Parliament and that the exactly number shall be based on the recommendation of the Constituency Boundaries Commission. Since Parliament has already reached the maximum number of seats, a constitutional amendment is now required if it is to expand further.

The Government proposed just such an amendment last year and the Constituency Boundaries Commisssion (CBC) has just handed down a report recommending that an additional 17 seats be established (see Solomon Times, 2/2/10). The provincial break-down is: four more for Malaita, three more for Guadalcanal and Western and one more for each of the other Provinces and also for Honiara.

This seems like a large increase but really this is just because Parliament has only expanded twice in 22 years and the last time was 13 years ago. Based on some quick-and-dirty calculations, I reckon that the recommended increase is probably less than the population growth that occurred during the same period. (I also reckon that this is appropriate, however, since there doesn’t seem to be any reason why the number of voters per electorate should remain fixed over time. Also, I can’t see any requirement to that effect in the Constitution.)

The CBC’s recommendation raises several issues.

First, the proposed constitutional amendment aims increase to increase the range of seats in Parliament from 30-50 (as it currently stands) to 50-70 seats (in future). However, if the CBC recommendation is adopted, then it is highly likely that Parliament will have to amend the constitution again the next time there is a recommendation to increase the number of seats. Given that population growth is likely to remain strong for some time to come, perhaps it would be wise to increase the upper cap to 80 or even 90 seats (or, more radically, why not do away with it entirely and leave it in the hands of the CBC, subject to parliamentary approval?).

Second, if the necessary changes are approved by Parliament in March, the task of implementation is likely to place additional pressure on the SI electoral commission, given there will be at most 4-5 months between parliamentary approval of the additional seats and the date of any election.

Huge bonus for sitting MPs

Finally, the CBC’s recommendation is likely to be a huge bonus for sitting MPs, especially since section 54 only allows them to accept or reject the recommendation (that is, Parliament does not have the power to approve a smaller increase). When Parliament expanded from 38 to 47 members before the 1993 election, 31 out of 38 incumbent members (82%) were re-elected. By contrast, in the six other elections since independence, on average only 44% of incumbents were re-elected and no other election has returned more than 58% of incumbents.

Sam Alasia suggests that the success of incumbents in 1993 may have been due in part to the introduction in 1992 of a discretionary fund for MPs to distribute to their electorates (Alasia 1997, p.12) – the now-infamous Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF). Clearly, however, the increase in the number of seats also played a role because the competition in that election was less fierce – in 1993, there were only 6.0 candidates per electorate, the lowest level of any post-indendepence election. By contrast, in five other elections, the average was 6.7 candidates per electorate. (This excludes the exceptional case of the 2006 election, which averaged 9.1 candidates per electorate.)

Perhaps it is these considerations, rather than the pressure imposed on the Electoral Commission, will weigh uppermost on the minds of parliamentarians when they deliberate on this matter in March?

Appendix:

As mentioned above, the number of seats in Parliament is governed by Section 54 of the Constitution. Here are the relevant provisions:

Constituencies

54.-(1) For the purpose of the election of members of Parliament, Solomon Islands shall be divided into such number of constituencies, being not less than thirty and not more than fifty, and each constituency shall have such boundaries, as may be prescribed by Parliament by resolution on a recommendation of the Constituency Boundaries Commission in accordance with subsection (4) of this section.

(2) The Constituency Boundaries Commission shall make recommendations to Parliament with respect to the number and boundaries of constituencies as soon as practicable after the commencement of this Constitution; and thereafter the Commission may review the number and boundaries of the constituencies whenever they consider this to be desirable and shall do so not later than ten years after they last reviewed them, and may make recommendations to Parliament for alterations in the number and boundaries of the constituencies.

(3) In making recommendations under the preceding subsection, the Constituency Boundaries Commission shall have regard to the principle that the number of inhabitants of each constituency shall be as nearly equal as is reasonably practicable:

Provided that the Commission may depart from the foregoing principle to such extent as they consider expedient in order to take account of the distribution of the population, the means of communication, and ethnic affiliations.

(4) Parliament may, by resolution, approve or reject the recommendations of the Constituency Boundaries Commission but may not vary them; and, if so approved, the recommendations shall have effect as from the next dissolution of Parliament.