- Solomon Islands
For Solomon Islands, 2006 brought a lot of expectations for positive change, especially with regard to political leadership at the national level. Many Solomon Islanders hoped that the national elections, scheduled for April, would bring about a change of government. The government that had ruled since 2001 under Sir Allan Kemakeza was perceived by many as incompetent and had failed miserably on the credibility scale. There was hope, therefore, that the election would usher in a new government.
These expectations were backed by the fact that the 2006 election was the first truly free and fair election. It was the first election since the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission [End Page 597] to Solomon Islands (ramsi), which disarmed most of those involved in the years of civil unrest from late 1998 to mid-2003. Although the previous national election (in 2001) had been declared free and fair by international and domestic observers, many Solomon Islanders knew that because of the widespread presence of guns in the communities at that time, voters had not really been free to choose. There had been evidence of intimidation of voters in some places. Much of this occurred before and after the election, and thus was never seen by observers who were present mainly on the day of the election.
The 2006 election, however, brought drama that dominated most of the year. Much of it emanated from dissatisfaction over the outcome of the election of the prime minister. Further, the newly elected Solomon Islands government engaged in a protracted diplomatic row with its Australian counterpart. This was largely a result of what Honiara saw as Canberra's interference in Solomon Islands domestic affairs. There were also debates about the regional assistance mission and Australia's dominant role in it.
These events and debates highlight the vulnerability of post-conflict societies and the challenges of rebuilding societies and states that have been traumatized by conflicts. They also demonstrate the challenges for international intervention and the role of foreign governments in post-conflict reconstruction.
The year kicked off on an upbeat note as many people joined families and friends in villages around the country to celebrate Christmas and New Year. But as most people enjoyed the holidays, those intending to stand for office were busy preparing for the elections. By the time registrations closed, a record number of 453 candidates were signed up to contest in the fifty constituencies. This was an average of 9.1 candidates per constituency, up from 6.6 in 2001. The election, held on 5 April, was declared a success by international and local observers.
By the time the votes had all been counted, half the sitting members of Parliament had lost their seats. Among them were Joses Tuhanuku, the leader of the Labour Party, and Alfred Sasako, the outspoken member for East Kwaio on Malaita. Some of the prominent figures in the previous Kemakeza-led government, however, retained their seats. These included Sir Allan Kemakeza himself; Snyder Rini, his deputy in the previous government; Laurie Chan; and Peter Boyes. The other Big-men of Solomon Islands politics who were also reelected were Job Dudley Tausinga (who ran unopposed in his North New Georgia constituency), Francis Billy Hilly, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu, Manasseh Sogavare, and Patterson Oti.
In the days following the national election, members of Parliament gathered in Honiara to prepare for the "second election"—the election of the prime minister, which would also determine who formed the government. This period, as usual, was characterized by intense lobbying, both among the members of Parliament and from lobbyists outside. This is also a period during which, in the past, there were allegations that powerful individuals with big money would often bribe members of Parliament to [End Page 598] ensure that any government that was formed would favor them. Members of Parliament usually form coalitions or "camps" and try to lure enough other members to make up sufficient numbers to form a government.
The election of the prime minister was held on 18 April, with three candidates up for the post: Tausinga, Rini, and Sogavare. Rini eventually emerged as winner, bringing back into...