‘It’s Happening’: Solomons PM Attempts to Delay Election Amid Beijing Influence

‘It’s Happening’: Solomons PM Attempts to Delay Election Amid Beijing Influence
Prime minister of the Solomon Island Manasseh Sogavare (C) arrives for the opening remarks of Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Suva on July 12, 2022 (William West/AFP via Getty Images)
Daniel Y. Teng

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has moved to delay elections citing the build-up to the Pacific Games in November 2023 as a reason.

The move comes after South Pacific expert Cleo Paskal warned in March that Sogavare—who has cultivated deep ties with Beijing—could be emboldened to tighten control over the Pacific nation, a key goal of the Chinese Communist Party’s “entropic warfare.”

On Aug. 8, the Sogavare government submitted the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2022 to Parliament, which aims to delay the nation’s elections by six months until Dec. 31, 2023. Originally parliament was supposed to be dissolved in May 2023. An election must normally be held within four months of parliament’s dissolution.

A change to the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority of the Solomon Islands parliament, with the vote likely to occur next month, according to Reuters.

In July, the prime minister’s office claimed the country did not have the resources to run an election and host the Pacific Games at the same time.

The Australian government has contributed SB$100 million (US$12.13 million) towards the hosting of the Games, with officials estimating the event will attract around 5,000 visitors to the Solomons capital Honiara.

In response to Sogavare’s moves, opposition leader Matthew Wale said: “So it’s happening.”

“PM Soga has submitted the Constitution Amendment Bill to postpone dissolution of the 11th Parl. I encourage citizens to use the Bills Committee process to air their views,” he wrote on Twitter on Aug. 9.

While U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said, the United States and Pacific nations would “watch very carefully to see what happens here.”

Sherman has been in the Solomon Islands to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal. During her visit, she met with Prime Minister Sogavare, the opposition leader, and the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation. The media group has been forced by the prime minister to self-censor content that is critical of the Sogavare government.

Beijing’s Entropic Warfare Underway

In March, Sogavare signed a secret security pact with Beijing that will pave the way for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to station troops, weapons, and naval ships in the region.
Cleo Paskal, an associate fellow of the Asia-Pacific Programme at Chatham House, previously warned that the relationship could give Sogavare the confidence to solidify his position—the prime minister is deeply unpopular and was a chance of losing the upcoming election.
A similar situation recently played out in Vanuatu—another close Beijing ally—with Prime Minister Bob Loughman also attempting to change the Constitution to extend parliamentary term limits and allow foreign nationals to hold office—there are a high number of Chinese nationals in the country.

However, the vote failed after opposing MPs simply did not show up, which meant the Parliament did not have a quorum to meet.

Yet the situation in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands is indicative of Beijing’s “entropic warfare” strategy where democratic institutions are being worn down.

The strategy plays out with the CCP deploying all means possible to destabilise the political, media, and legal institutions of a target nation, with the ultimate goal of creating a “new order” centred on its own interests.

“Those weapons are used to weaken the target country from the inside and to fragment and create disorder in the target country so that it is less able to withstand Chinese influence,” Paskal previously told The Epoch Times.

“That process of creating instability and fragmentation can be described as creating a state of ‘entropy’—of political, social, and economic entropy—where things start to just break down. And in that state of disorder, China can create a new order with itself and its proxies at the centre.”

Daniel Y. Teng is based in Brisbane, Australia. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at [email protected].
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