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Solomon Islands : Constitution and politics

Constitution

Status: 
Monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II
Legislature: 
National Parliament
Independence: 
7 July 1978

Solomon Islands is a constitutional monarchy, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state. The Queen is represented by a Governor-General, who must be a citizen of the country and is elected by Parliament. The National Parliament is unicameral, with 50 seats. Elections are held every four years on the basis of universal adult suffrage. The Prime Minister, who is chosen by Parliament, must be an MP; the cabinet is chosen by the Prime Minister and holds executive power.

Politics

Solomon Islands’ politics has been characterised by fluid coalitions of parties and independents.

After conclusion of the peace agreement of February 2001 armed militia continued to be at large and many weapons remained in the hands of former militia members. A general election was nevertheless held in December 2001. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and the ruling People’s Progressive Party (PPP) were heavily defeated, retaining only three seats, and only 19 members of the previous Parliament held their seats. The People’s Alliance Party, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza, won 20 seats and the Solomon Islands Alliance for Change (SIAC) 12. Kemakeza formed a coalition with the Association of Independent Members (AIM) led by Snyder Rini (Finance Minister in the PPP government), and Kemakeza was elected Prime Minister by Parliament.

In the April 2006 election – with Commonwealth observers present – 16 members of the government lost their seats. Kemakeza retained his seat but his People’s Alliance Party was much reduced while Snyder Rini’s AIM did well, with 13 newly elected members. Rini was subsequently elected Prime Minister by the new Parliament. Rioting then broke out and a large portion of Chinatown in Honiara was destroyed by fire. In the same month Rini stood down when he no longer had the support of the majority of members of parliament and early in May 2006 Parliament elected Manasseh Sogavare (leader of the Social Credit Party) Prime Minister.

Sogavare was ousted in December 2007 in a parliamentary vote of no confidence, which was precipitated by the defection in November of nine government ministers. The leader of the recently established Coalition for National Unity and Rural Advancement, and Education Minister in the Sogavare administration, Derek Sikua, became Prime Minister.

In the fourth round of voting, in June 2009, Parliament elected Sir Frank Kabui to succeed Sir Nathaniel Waena as Governor-General with effect from July.

In the election on 4 August 2010 the Solomon Islands Democratic Party, led by Steven Abana, secured 13 of the 50 seats in the National Parliament; the numerous other parties won 18 seats; and independents, the rest. The Commonwealth observer group present at the election reported that the people had freely exercised their democratic right.

In the parliamentary vote that followed the general election, Danny Philip, leader of the Solomon Islands Reform and Democratic Party (a coalition of parties and independent members), was chosen as Prime Minister, polling 26 votes; his only rival, Steven Abana, won the support of 23 members.

In November 2011, following defections from the ruling coalition, Prime Minister Philip resigned. In the parliamentary vote that followed former Finance Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo was chosen to be Prime Minister with the support of 29 of the 49 members who voted.

On 6 May 2014, in the fourth round of parliamentary voting, Sir Frank Kabui was re-elected Governor-General, when he defeated Andrew Mua (23–21 votes).

At the general election on 19 November 2014 independent candidates took 32 seats, the Democratic Alliance Party seven, the United Democratic Party five and the People’s Alliance Party three. On 9 December 2014 Manasseh Sogavare was elected Prime Minister by the newly assembled Parliament; he defeated Jeremiah Manele 31:19. A Commonwealth observer group present at the general election concluded that it was conducted in a peaceful environment and voters appeared generally able to cast their votes freely.

Head of government

The Hon Manasseh Damukana Sogavare, Prime Minister
The Hon Manasseh Damukana Sogavare has served as Prime Minister since 19 November 2014. He was first elected to parliament in 1997 as the Member of Parliament for East Choiseul Island and this is his fifth consecutive term as the MP for this constituency. He has previously served as Prime Minister three times from 2000 to 2001, 2006 to 2007 and 2014 to date. He has also served as Deputy Leader of the Opposition from July 1998 to 1999 and became Leader of the Opposition until the end of 2000. He has served as Minister of Finance from 1997-1998 and Minister for Commerce, Industries and Employment in 2006. Prior to entering politics, Mr Sogavare has served as Inland Revenue Commissioner, Central Bank Director and Chairman of the Solomon Islands National Provident Fund. He holds a degree in Accounting and Economics from the University of the South Pacific and a Master’s Degree in Management Studies from Waikato University in New Zealand. He was born on 17 January 1955 in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea.