Archive for the ‘Solomons politics’ Category

2010 election update

June 29, 2010

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

On 22 June, the Governor General, Frank Kabui, officially announced that the election will be held on Wednesday, 4 August. Candidates have two weeks (until 7 July) to nominate for the election.

In the meantime, campaigning has begun in earnest, with policy announcements on a range of issues. Here are summaries and links to announcements made in recent weeks. (I previously posted on various campaign manifestos and policy announcements back in March.)

Here’s a list of the range of topics covered in the announcements:

  • Decentralisation, rural development & RCDF
  • Taiwan & China
  • RAMSI and aid donors
  • Democratic Party (SIDP) – its record & party list
  • PAP’s priorities
  • Others – gambling, tourism & SEZs
  • Sri Ramon Quitales – RIP

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David Sitai, MP for East Makira

May 24, 2010

David Sitai

On 23 April, long-serving parliamentarian, David Sitai, announced that he will retire from politics at the end of the current term of parliament (SIBC, 23/04/10, subscribers only). When he steps down, Sitai will have served as the member for East Makira for six consecutive terms (from 1984-2010), making him one of the longest-serving MPs in Solomons’ political history, alongside Solomon Mamaloni, Francis Billy Hilly and Job Duddley Tausinga.

This post looks at Sitai’s achievements in parliament and as a Minister, reviews his background prior to entering politics and comments on his recent electoral performance. The post concludes with a survey of possible contenders for the seat of East Makira.

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The Billy Hilly govt (1993-94)

May 23, 2010

This post is the continuation of a profile of Francis Billy Hilly (the current Finance Minister and former Prime Minister). In my earlier post, I summarised his early political career from 1976-84 and the nine subsequent years he spent away from national politics.

This post discusses his return to parliament in the 1993 election, his subsequent appointment as Prime Minister, the policies his government pursued and finally the constitutional crisis in October 1994 that preceded Billy Hilly’s downfall.

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Finance Ministers of Solomon Islands

May 20, 2010

Snyder Rini, Finance Minister 2001-02, 2002-03 & 2007-10

With the recent dismissal of Snyder Rini as Finance Minister and his replacement by Francis Billy Hilly, I thought it would be interesting to try to list the Finance Ministers of Solomons.

After a bit of digging, I have found at least 23 appointments as Finance Minister from Wille Betu’s appointment in 1975 up until Billy Hilly’s appointment in 2010 – see the full list below.

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Election petitions

May 15, 2010

This post looks at election petitions that have been lodged by losing candidates following a general election or, occasionally, a by-election. I ran a search on ‘election petitions’ on the Pacific Islands Legal Information Institute (PacLII) database for Solomon Islands and found court decisions for 31 petitions of national elections. I’m not certain that I’ve got a complete set but it is at least an interesting sample, available as a Word doc here.

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By-election data – updated

May 15, 2010

In an earlier post, I provided a list of all the by-elections and parliamentary vacancies in Solomons between 1973 and 2010. The list was only to the best of my knowledge at the time and I have since updated it slightly, so I have posted revised data in a Word doc here.

In summary (to the best of my knowledge):

  • There have been 31 parliamentary vacancies since 1973 (26 since independence).
  • Of these vacancies, 14 (45%) have occurred in the last two terms of parliament.
  • The main causes of vacancies are death (8), resignation (8), jail (6) and election petition (3).
  • These vacancies have resulted in 26 by-elections since 1973 (21 since independence). In the remaining cases, the seat has remained vacant until the following election.

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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Extra seats? Parliament undecided

April 13, 2010

Update (15/04/10): Parliament is undecided no more. Last night, it voted 25-15 in support of a motion to reject the report of the Constitutional Boundaries Commission. Apparently this means that the report’s recommendation will not be voted on at all. Some controversy arose from the decision of the Speaker, Sir Peter Kenilorea, to allow the motion to be moved without the usual three days notice. Kenilorea said he allowed the motion without notice because it was a matter of ‘national urgency’. See reports in the Solomon Star and Solomon Times for more details.

***********************

I previously posted (here and here) on the proposal by the Constituency Boundaries Commission (CBC) to increase the number of seats in Parliament from 50 to 67. A recent report from the Solomon Star (9/04/10) suggests that the vote is still in the balance, largely due to concerns regarding the possible costs involved.

In parliamentary debate today, government ministers Steve Abana and Seth Gukuna both spoke against the proposal (One TV, 13/04/10) however another senior and long-serving member of the government, Job Tausinga, has indicated his support (Solomon Star, 13/04/10).

Presumably, we will know the result soon …

Update (14/04/10): OneTV has quoted Opposition Leader Manasseh Sogavare expressing his opposition to the proposed increase in seats whilst the Solomon Star reports that Chiefs from Central Guadalcanal have added their opposition to the debate. Their objection does not relate to the costs involved; rather, they are concerned about the proposal to split the electorate of Central Guadalcanal into two (a smaller Central Guadalcanal and a new North Guadalcanal).

RIP – Edward Huni’ehu (1956-2010)

April 13, 2010

Edward Huni'ehu

According to a report from OneTV, Hon. Edward Justus Huni’ehu, passed away recently after an extended period of ill health.

Huni’ehu was first elected as the member for East ‘Are ‘Are in a by-election in 1992 following the resignation of Peter Kenilorea. He was re-elected at the 1993 election, chose not to contest in 1997 and then won again in 2001 and 2006. In all, he served as a member of parliament for over 13 years and was thus one of the longest-serving members since independence.

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Women in Solomons politics

April 10, 2010

Earlier today I posted on ‘Being the First: Storis Blong Oloketa Meri Lo Solomon Aelan‘, which tells the stories of 14 trail-blazing women who reached senior positions in the Solomons Islands parliament and public service.

I thought I could also make a small contribution by discussing the participation of women in Solomons politics. All of the data cited below (and some additional tables) are available here.

Update (25/07/10): I have posted a list of women contesting the 2010 election here.

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Sols Parliament on OneTV

March 30, 2010

I have just discovered that One Television has a daily summary of parliamentary debate available for viewing on its web site – great stuff!

Each daily segment is about 8 minutes long and is presented by one of Sols’ leading young journos, Evans Wasuka (he also writes some good stuff in the Islands Business magazine). So far, this service  seems to be a much more regular and reliable update on what’s happening in parliament than what’s available in the online newspaper services.

Thanks OneTV!

Solomons – Integrity of Political Parties

March 20, 2010

The Solomons Parliament resumed sitting on 11 March and no doubt MPs will be focused on constitutional amendments that aim to improve political stability by regulating the operation of political parties.

This will be the last sitting of the Eighth Parliament and, according to the Solomons Parliament web site, it is expected to continue sitting for about seven weeks before Parliament dissolves on or before 24 April.

The reforms to the integrity of political parties are set out in two bills: Constitution (Political Parties) Amendment Bill and the Political Parties (Registration and Administration) Bill.

In this post, I’ve had a go at summarising the key proposals, focusing primarily on the constitutional amendments. Aside from the Bills themselves and their Explanatory Memoranda, another useful source of information (and commentary) is the Final Report of the Constitution Review Committee.

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By-elections in Solomon Islands

February 28, 2010

I thought it would be interesting to review past by-elections in Solomons in the wake of Friday’s High Court decision regarding the by-election in Savo and Russells in October last year (see previous post).

Note (15/05/10): I have made some minor revisions to the data discussed in this post. The updates are available here.

The last two Parliaments have seen an unusually large number of vacancies and by-elections. Indeed, of the 28 vacancies that I am aware of since self-government, 12 of them (over 40%) have occurred in the last two terms (see table below).

The main reasons for these by-elections and vacancies were that the incumbent had resigned, died or received a jail sentence of six months or more (and thus had to vacate their seats under Section 51 of the Constitution). Between 1973 and 2010, there were at least:

  • eight resignations (including two cases where the incumbent was appointed Speaker or Governor General),
  • seven deaths in office (including one assassination), and
  • six cases where an MP received a jail sentence of six months or more.

There were two instances where the outcome at a national election was successfully petitioned (Gao-Bugotu after the 2001 election and East Honiara after the 1993 election). There are three other cases where I have been unable to ascertain the reason for the by-election (can anyone help me here?).

I should also note that not all vacancies have resulted in by-elections – during the 2001-06 Parliament there were two seats (Small Malaita and West Kwara’ae) that became vacant but were not filled until the next election. It is possible that this may also have occurred in the seat of North Guadalcanal during the 1980-84 Parliament.

Why so many vacancies recently?

The main reason for the many vacancies in the last two parliaments is that six parliamentarians have received jail sentences of six months or more. As far as I am aware, no MP had been removed in this way before 2004. The other major reason is that there were four deaths in office.

This grim news has created plenty of work for the Solomon Islands Electoral Commission. Despite the significant problems with the by-election in Savo and Russells, it otherwise deserves credit for managing to successful conduct five other by-elections in 2008 and 2009. Hopefully this experience and the voter registration process that is currently underway will ensure that the Electoral Commission will be well prepared for the upcoming National Election.

Table: by-elections and vacancies, 1973-2010

The table below (and also available in a Word doc here) lists all the by-elections and vacancies that I’m aware of. If anyone has any corrections or additional details, I’d be glad to hear them.

Also, note that I have still recorded Allan Kemakeza as the “incoming member” for most recent by-election in Savo and Russells however I assume that this should be revised to “vacant” in the light of the High Court’s decision.

By-election bagarap?

February 27, 2010

The High Court has found that Allan Kemakeza was ineligible to stand in the by-election for Savo and Russells that was held on 29 October 2009.  Reports on the decision are available from the Solomon Star, Radio NZ and the Australia Network.

Kemakeza was forced to vacate his seat after he received a jail sentence of 18 months (of which 12 months was suspended). Kemakeza was convicted in November 2007 of ‘demanding with menace, intimidation and larceny’ after he had ordered former militants in 2002 to raid and seize vehicles belonging to Sol Law. Kemakeza was originally sentenced in December 2007 to five months imprisonment but on appeal, this was increased to 18 months, with two-thirds of the sentence suspended.

Kemakeza completed his prison sentence at the end of 2008, in time to celebrate new year’s eve, but presumably he continued to serve his suspended sentence for the following year. My impression is that the High Court judged he was disqualified from standing in the October 2009 by-election because he was still serving this sentence at the time.

I haven’t read the judgment from Justice Edwin Goldsbrough of the High Court but I imagine that it is based on Section 49 of the Constitution which states that ‘No person shall be qualified for election as a member of Parliament who … is under a sentence of imprisonment for a term of, or exceeding, six months’. (The relevant provisions of Sections 49, 50 and 51 are reproduced below.)

Presumably Justice Goldsbrough concluded that a suspended sentence is still a sentence and therefore found that Kemakeza was disqualified. Of course, as the Solomon Star report points out, Kemakeza’s 12-month suspended sentence lapsed in December 2009 which means that he is eligible to contest the upcoming national elections.

Appendix:

As mentioned above, disqualification for election to Parliament is governed by Sections 49, 50 and 51 of the Constitution. Here are the relevant provisions:

Disqualifications from membership

49.-(1) No person shall be qualified for election as a member of Parliament who –

(e) is under sentence of death imposed on him by a court in any part of the world, or is under a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term of, or exceeding, six months, other than a sentence in lieu of a fine, but including a suspended sentence, imposed on him by such a court or substituted by competent authority for some other sentence imposed on him by such a court;

Vacation of seats by members

50. A member of Parliament shall vacate his seat –

(f) if any circumstance arises that, if he were not a member of Parliament, would cause him to be disqualified from election thereto by virtue of paragraph (a), (b), (d), (f) or (g) of subsection (1) of the preceding section; or

(g) in the circumstances mentioned in the next following section.

Vacation of seat on sentence, etc.

51.-(1) Subject to the provisions of this section, if a member of Parliament is sentenced by a court in any part of the world to death or to imprisonment (by whatever name called) for a term of, or exceeding, six months, including a suspended sentence, he shall forthwith cease to perform his functions as a member of Parliament, and his seat in Parliament shall become vacant at the expiration of a period of thirty days thereafter:

Provided that the Speaker (or, if the office of Speaker is vacant or he is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his office, the Deputy Speaker) may, at the request of the member, from time to time extend that period for thirty days to enable the member to pursue any appeal in respect of his conviction or sentence so however that extensions of time exceeding in the aggregate one hundred and fifty days shall not be given without the approval of Parliament signified by resolution.

Prime Ministers of Solomon Islands

February 26, 2010

Election time is always a worrying time for sitting Prime Ministers. If the current PM, Dr Derek Sikua, looks to history for a guide to the future, he will find that it has both good and bad news.

The good news is that no sitting Prime Minister (or Chief Minister) has lost his seat. In fact, only nine people have served as PM and five of them are still in Parliament today. Of the others, Peter Kenilorea resigned from Parliament in 1991 to head up the Forum Fisheries Agency, Solomon Mamaloni and Bartholomew Ulufa’alu were both still MPs when they passed away (in 2000 and 2007, respectively). Only Ezekiel Alebua was eventually voted out – he was PM from 1986-89 and was defeated by the current member for East Guadalcanal, Johnson Koli, in the 1997 election.

The bad news is that although history suggests that the PM will retain his seat of North-East Guadalcanal, it also implies that he is unlikely to retain the top job. Only Peter Kenilorea has successfully retained the prime ministership after an election (in 1980). Since then, there have been six elections and each has resulted in a change of Prime Minister. Indeed, of the 13 changes of leader, seven were due to elections and four were due to motions of no confidence. The remaining two changes were due to the coup against Bart Ulufa’alu in June 2000 and Kenilorea’s resignation in December 1986 in response to allegations of misuse of rehabilitation funds in the wake of Cyclone Namu (in his recent autobiography (2008, pp.271-85), Kenilorea details the allegations and argues strenuously that there was no misconduct).

Table: Prime Ministers & Chief Ministers of Solomons, 1974-2010

* Mamaloni (1974-76) and Kenilorea (1976-78) served as Chief Minister.
Source: Kenilorea 2008, Tell it as it is, pp.489-90.

An average PM?

If we assume, for the sake of argument, that the historical pattern continues and Prime Minister Sikua is replaced after the election, he will have served for about 2.5 years. As it happens, this is almost exactly the average term of office for Prime Ministers (and Chief Ministers) since Solomon Mamaloni first became Chief Minister on 28 August 1974. To be precise, the average Prime Ministerial term is two years and seven months.

(Note that, for the purpose of this calculation, I have treated Kenilorea’s two periods of office from 1976-78 and 1978-81 as a single term from 1976-81 because the two terms are only separated by the announcement of Solomons independence, which is not relevant to how long leaders have held office.)

Chart: Prime Ministers & Chief Ministers of Solomons, 1974-2010

* The calculation of the ‘average term’ treats Kenilorea’s two periods of office from 1976-78 and 1978-81 as a single term.

The chart illustrates the domination of Solomons politics by the two leaders from the self-government period: Solomon Mamaloni and Peter Kenilorea. Mamaloni served four terms as leader for a total of almost 12 years whilst Peter Kenilorea served for more than seven years during his two terms in office. Together they have served more than half of the period since 1974. The next longest serving leader is Allan Kemakeza, who was the third leader to serve a full four-year term in office.

Although Kemakeza was the third leader to serve a full term in office, his government is often reported to have been the first to serve a full four-year term in office. Technically, this is correct, although I think that in the case of Kenilorea’s first government, this is largely a semantic point as he retained a very similar cabinet for the whole period from 1976 to 1980, notwithstanding the announcement of independence in the interim.

As for Mamaloni, although he remained PM for the entire period from 1989 to 1993, his People’s Alliance Party (PAP) government did not. In November 1990, he defected from the PAP, sacked five ministers, recruited five members of the opposition and formed the new Government for National Unity and Reconciliation (GNUR).

Not all PMs have fared as well as Mamaloni, Kenilorea and Kemakeza. The April 2006 riots ensured that Snyder Rini’s term was over in less than a fortnight and on three other occasions, the PM has served for less than 20 months (Billy Hilly, and Sogavare twice). It remains to be seen whether the leader(s) of the 9th Parliament replicate the success of Mamaloni, Kenilorea and Kemakeza or suffer the fate of Rini, Billy Hilly and Sogavare.

Note: the data used in this post is available here.

A larger Parliament – at what cost?

February 24, 2010

How much will it cost to expand the Solomons Islands Parliament from 50 to 67 seats? According to the Ministry of Finance, about $46.7 million per year (AUD6.5 million). I haven’t been able to find any details online to explain how this number was calculated but presumably it includes:

  • salaries and personal allowances (eg, housing, travel etc),
  • office space, equipment, stationary etc, and
  • the costs of allocating the Rural Constituency Development Fund (RCDF) and similar funds to each the additional parliamentarian

The total 2010 budget was reportedly around $1.9 billion (AUD263 million), which means that these additional MPs would cost an extra 2.5% of the total budget. This is a significant amount at any time but particularly now, when the Government’s revenues have been affected by the global financial crisis and the Permanent Secretary of Finance has recently warned that the Government’s finances are tight.

In its February edition, Island Business magazine reported that the Government’s cash flow problems had delayed the release of funds for election preprarations. If this is still the case, it raises the question: with limited funds, what is the top priority for the Government and for Parliament – more seats or a well-prepared election?

In a previous post, I suggested that an increase of 17 seats might be appropriate, since that represented an increase that did not even keep up with population growth since the last increase in Parliament. On reflection, I’m not sure that’s a very good argument. We now have some idea of the costs of extra seats so the question now should be: what are the likely benefits?

It would be interesting to see what the Constitutional Boundaries Commission says but I haven’t been able to find a copy of its report online (can anyone help me here?). But no matter what it says, it will have to come up with a better argument than “keeping pace with population growth” to justify costs of around $46.7 million per year.

(Note: currency conversion from SI dollars to Australian dollars is based on today’s exchange rate – SBD1 buys AUD0.1383 – as reported on the Central Bank web site.)

Data – laws enacted by Solomons Parliament

February 16, 2010

In an earlier post, I commented on the large number of laws enacted in 2009 compared to the previous 10-15 years. At the time I published that post, I couldn’t figure out how to post tables, charts or the Excel spreadsheet that contained the data underpinning the post. I’ve figured it out now – the data is available here and the charts and tables are reproduced below.

(For the tech-wonks, I’ve managed to publish these charts and tables using the “Publish blog” feature in Word 2007. To be honest, this may be the first time I’ve ever felt grateful for a feature in MS Office 2007!)

The chart nicely illustrates my point. In the late 1980s, Parliament enacted around 16-17 laws each year. For most of the 1990s and 2000s, the average fell to just 9 laws per year. In this context, the 20 laws enacted last year certainly suggests that Parliament upped its work rate. Of course, this is a crude measure that is based purely on the quantity of laws, with no reference to quality.

Chart: laws enacted by the Solomon Islands Parliament, 1985-2009

Table 1: Laws enacted per year by the Solomon Islands Parliament (average)

Table 2: Laws enacted by the Solomon Islands Parliament, 1985-2009
(Election years are shaded)

Sources (sites accessed 08/02/10):

  1. Parliament web site (for 1985-1995 & 2008-09)
    http://www.parliament.gov.sb/index.php?q=node/13
  2. PacLII (for 1996-2007)
    http://www.paclii.org/sb/indices/legis/Acts_1996-.htm

Notes:

  1. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing one Act in 1996 – the 1997 Appropriation Act 1996.
  2. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing one Act in 1997 – Mamara-Tasivarongomavo Development Agreement Act 1997.
  3. A comparison of the two lists suggests that the Parliament web site is missing three Acts in 1999 – Leadership Code (Further Provisions) Act 1999, Honiara City Act 1999 and Forests Act 1999.
  4. The National Parliament Electoral Provisions (Amendment) Act 2001 was successfully challenged in the High Court prior to the 2001 election and was never enforced.

Solomons parliament – a high work rate

February 8, 2010

Prime Minister Sikua has announced that Parliament will resume sitting on 11 March, according to a Radio New Zealand report (08/02/10) which also states that six more Bills will be presented in the March sitting. This suggests that the Sikua-led CNURA (Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement) government plans to maintain its high work rate right until the very end, at least if you accept the number of laws enacted by Parliament as a crude work-rate measure.

In 2009, Parliament enacted 20 laws. According to the records on the Solomons Parliament web site and through PacLII (the Pacific Legal Information Institute), this tally has only been bettered once in 25 years (back in 1987, when 29 laws were enacted). During that time, there were, on average, around 12 laws enacted each year. However, since 1993, that average fell to 9 laws per year, including the mandatory annual appropriation bill. Thus, by recent standards, the CNURA government certainly kept its Parliament busy in 2009.

This is also reflected in the number of sitting days each year of the 8th Parliament, 2006-2010 (based on Hansard reports). In 2006, Parliament sat for just 19 days. In 2007, this increased to 35 days but under the CNURA government, the figure has increased again to 60 days (in 2008) and 66 days (in 2009). Perhaps there may even be a hint of relief amongst the honourable members of the Eighth when parliament is finally prorogued!

(Note: I have collated the data for this post in a short spreadsheet which is available on request. I would like to post it but haven’t yet figured out how to post tables or links to Excel spreadsheets.)

UPDATE (16/02/10): all the supporting data for this post is now available here.

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.