Setback for China in Solomon Islands as pro-Beijing provincial leader loses election

Beijing’s bid to build influence across the Solomon Islands hit a major snag on Friday, with the pro-China premier of the Pacific nation’s most populous province losing his seat in countrywide elections.

Malaita premier Martin Fini – who has overseen the swift expansion of Chinese interests in the province – lost his re-election bid, according to the election commission.

For years, the province of Malaita refused to accept aid or investment from China, bucking the trend as Beijing’s influence expanded across the rest of the sprawling archipelago.

But that changed when Fini was installed as premier in 2023, replacing the popular Daniel Suidani.

Fini recently signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s Jiangsu province. But his failure to reclaim his seat now puts that agreement in doubt.

‘Calling for change’: will Solomon Islands lean closer to China after its polls?

Beijing’s embassy in the Solomon Islands has in the past praised Fini’s “firm support” of China, promising to pave his province with new roads and ply it with better internet.

Suidani was one of the rare provincial leaders who refused to cash China’s cheques, fearing Beijing’s goodwill would one day come with strings attached.

Indicating he would now seek to reclaim the premiership of Malaita, Suidani said the pursuit of closer ties with China had contributed to Fini’s downfall.

“The people here in Malaita don’t agree with the ruling government for the past 12 months,” he said on Friday.

“All of these things contributed, including the signing of the provincial relationship with Jiangsu.”



China confirms signing of Solomon Islands security pact, as US warns of regional instability

China confirms signing of Solomon Islands security pact, as US warns of regional instability

Suidani’s provincial government was so concerned about China’s sway that it blocked telecoms giant Huawei from building desperately needed mobile phone towers on the island.

“That is something that is very concerning – the influence of the [Chinese Communist Party] in this country,” Suidani said earlier this week as elections kicked into gear.

Suidani was ousted as Malaita’s premier after losing a no-confidence vote in early 2023.

He has long suspected China of working behind the scenes to orchestrate his removal.

Build now, pay later? Debt-ridden Fiji turns to China for port upgrades

Solomon Islands is currently counting votes for both provincial and national elections.

The contest has cast the spotlight on China’s efforts to stamp its mark on the South Pacific and has been pitched in part as a referendum on Beijing’s growing influence in the country.

Incumbent Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has championed deeper ties with Beijing since coming to power in 2019.

The centrepiece of Sogavare’s embrace was a 2022 security pact that has seen rotating teams of Chinese police deployed in the archipelago.



Read More

Leave a Reply