Women just 6 per cent of candidates, speculation of Chinese influence in Solomon Islands’ election

Since independence in 1978, only six women have won seats in Parliament, and 15 women have won seats in provincial assemblies.


While 20 out of the 334 registered candidates for the Solomon Islands 2024 national election (held on 17 April 2024) are females, how many of them will win and enter Parliament remains to be seen.

The Solomon Islands Electoral Commission revealed the number of women candidates running at the 2024 national election was just 6 per cent of the total number of candidates contesting, lower than the previous election in 2019.

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In 2019, 26 women candidates were running.

Since independence in 1978, only six women have won seats in Parliament, and 15 women have won seats in provincial assemblies.

Image: There are 400,000 registered voters who are expected to cast their votes in the Solomon Islands today (Picture: SILVANA KENIKEREMIA)

Senior lawyer, Irene Vaukei is running for the Ngella constituency in the 2024 joint election, aiming to bring revolutionary change to the Central Islands. She focuses on fair Constituency Development Fund (CDF) distribution, shipping infrastructure, and empowering women and youth through economic assistance.

Anne Nanette Tutua, a female candidate, is running for North Georgia Constituency’s parliamentary seat in the 2024 joint election with the aim to combat poverty through economic initiatives and promote inclusive leadership.

Florence Kealau Alalo, a pro-environment candidate from Ontong Java Atoll, launched her 2024 campaign to end the discriminatory treatment of Malaita Outer Islands (MOI) people as second-class citizens, raising awareness about climate change, food security and other pressing issues in MOI’s low-lying atolls.

A market vendor in Honiara, Wendy Ki’ini said: “Women contesting for a seat in Parliament gives me a sense of empowerment, for it can help break stereotypes. It lets people know that women can rise despite being seen as vulnerable. Having courageous and smart women as leaders are qualities we need to consider when choosing a candidate.”

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According to the International Women’s Development Agency, Solomon Islands, while there have been achievements and progress made with respect to women, there are still continuous and unresolved challenges experienced by young women and mothers in the Solomon Islands.

The organisation highlighted that with the high rate of school fees across the country, more women and girls are left out of the education system making it an issue that needs continuous improvement. The health sector of the Solomon Islands has pointed out another issue of concern for women as the leading cause of cancer death for women is cervical.

A 2023 report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) highlighted that gender-based violence was still currently high in the Solomon Islands where women have experienced physical and or sexual violence from their intimate partner in their lifetime. As a result of such gender-related incidents, women are severely affected both physically and mentally which further impacts their well-being.

There are 400,000 registered voters out of a population of more than 700,000. The minimum voting age is 18 years and above.

More than half of the country’s population is made up of youths while 354,370 are women, whose votes will have a deciding say about the future government.

Abraham Kwaimae, a student undertaking a Bachelor of Law at The University of the South Pacific’s Solomon Islands Honiara Campus said: “I desire clever leaders with educational qualifications, who will become effective legislatures and good policymakers. This is what this country needs.

“I hope the Solomon Islands will be economically stable so that our generation will have good infrastructures and more entrepreneurship,” he said.

The Solomon Islands is ranked 155 out of 191 in its Human Development Index (HDI) according to the 2024 United Nations Development Programme’s Regional Human Development Pacific Snapshot.

Numerous issues need attention such as the lack of health facilities, high unemployment, especially among youth, political stability, lack of education opportunities, environmental issues, social issues, and fast population growth.

The report indicates that only 8 per cent of the population is employed and 4 per cent are degree holders.

According to the report, since 1990 Solomon Islands has ranked between 40-54 per cent in its human development index.

James Dima, who is expected to cast his vote tomorrow, said, “I think the Solomon Islands will still be underdeveloped if there are issues like unemployment and the creation of new policies are not initiated.”

Mr Dima said it was important to educate voters not to be misled by money but to vote for those who are well-versed in different fields to stimulate the country’s economy. He said the political setting of a country depended entirely on the kind of leaders that would be elected.

Image: More than half of the country’s population is made up of youths while 354,370 are women (Picture: SILVANA KENIKEREMIA)

Parties contesting 2024 national election

A total of 13 political parties are contesting this election.

Opposition parties include the Solomon Islands Democratic Party offering candidates in 36 of the 50 electorates. There are also the Democratic Alliance Party with 12 candidates and the United Party with 18 candidates. New parties have emerged, raising the chances of electoral upsets. They notably include the People’s Liberal Democratic Party with 44 candidates and the Iumi for Change Party with eight candidates.

The strongest parties include the Ownership Unity Responsibility Party (OUR), which the caretaker Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare is leading.

Since taking office Sogavare has reshaped internal and external politics, with some new directions leading to social unrest by those feeling excluded from decision-making.

Based on a report by The Lowy Institute, in 2019, Sogavare severed 36 years of relations with Taiwan in favour of China with concerns raised, but the government was unresponsive.

Meanwhile, strong competition is expected from the Solomon Islands Democratic Party (SIDP) which is led by Mattew Wale and the Solomon Islands United Party (UP) run by Junior Peter Kenilorea.

Another front-runner is former prime minister, Gordan Darcy Lilo from the Solomon Islands Party for Rural Advancement. He will be contesting for the Central Honiara seat against the former MP, Alfred Efona, and eight other candidates.

One of the major issues is corruption and the role of money in elections.

Social media users also questioned the deteriorating infrastructure. Some believed that public officers are paid less than they deserve, which could be an incentive for corruption.

Another issue is the establishment of ties with other major countries, such as China, the United States and Australia. Sogavare is seen to be close to China. There is speculation about Chinese influence in the elections. This has caused social unrest in recent years, including riots in Chinatown.

Defence personnel from New Zealand, Fiji and Australia are providing security, including Chinese security personnel who are also in the country for the election.

This article was first published in Wansolwara and has been republished here with the kind permission of the editor(s).

Contributing Author: Silvana Kenikeremia is a second-year Journalism student at The University of the South Pacific (USP).

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