Manasseh Sogavare was elected prime minister of the Solomon Islands for the third time on December 9, 2014. He first succeeded to the office in June 2000, when the rebel Malaitan Eagle Force took Prime Minister Bartholomew Ulufa’alu hostage, and served until a general election in 2001. Parliament again elected Sogavare prime minister in 2006 but he was toppled by a no confidence vote in 2007.
Why is he in the news?
Sogavare is negotiating cabinet appointments and preparing a policy agenda following general elections in November. The polls were the first since the July 2013 departure of the military contingent of the Australian-led Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands, which intervened in 2003 to halt spiraling violence between the government and rebel groups. The elections were closely monitored as a test of stability, and with only one recorded instance of violence during the voting, the results have been widely accepted.
What can we expect from him?
Sogavare has said he hopes to institute structural reforms to stimulate investment in the Solomon Islands and create a more vibrant economy. The Solomons faces immediate fiscal challenges due to the suspension of work at Gold Ridge mine and ongoing reconstruction efforts after flash floods in April 2014.
In his acceptance speech, Sogavare said he remains committed to working with traditional partners such as Australia and New Zealand and hopes they will continue to invest in the Solomon Islands. Sogavare’s previous term in office saw a marked downturn in relations with Australia, but his current cooperation with the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), a partnership between the Solomon Islands and 15 Pacific countries, on the pivotal decision to rearm some of the Solomon’s police force is a hopeful sign.
Sogavare has also expressed interest in improving the Solomons’ relationship with China, which could mean ending official diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.