An Observer Group from the Commonwealth, which observed the Solomon Islands National Parliamentary Elections of 4 August 2010, has produced its final report detailing the generally sound orchestration of the nation’s elections, but raising a few key issues on which the country needs to improve upon.
The Group noted that in 2010, 75.2% of the population was registered as eligible voters even though government figures show that approximately 49% of the population is under the eligible voting age of 18 years. The Observer Group noted that Electoral Commission of the Solomon Islands does not have sufficient control of its budget to make full preparations for a general election, including a full update of the voting register.
Concerns were raised over deliberate inflation of the voter register by multiple registration and, conversely, non-registration of voters likely to support an alternative candidate to the one favoured by the enumerator.
Multiple problems have arisen in the Solomon Islands which plague elections and voting in all countries of the world; migration, multiple addresses, the need to attend a particular polling station, the death of someone on the voting register, the need to register and the need to update details. The Observer Group also noted the lack of identity requirements for voters.
Public information was well co-ordinated and the media was praised for its effective planning and positive contribution to the 2010 election. In the very localised issues at the August election, national media access was not considered an important issue for the candidates. A more pressing concern was the disbursement of donor-provided Rural Constituency Development Funds:
“The media and other reports alleged that donor funding of several million Solomon Islands dollars was distributed to sitting MPs on the day prior to Parliament’s dissolution. Many with whom we spoke openly questioned how these funds were actually being used; the widely held perception was that these funds were used to influence voters through direct cash payments or gifts.”
The Observer Group noted that many locals considered the gift-giving to go beyond the normal levels of hospitality expected in Solomon Islands culture. It also expressed disappointment in the lack of women candidates returned to parliament.
In its conclusions, the Observer Group congratulated the Electoral Commission and the people of the Solomon
Islands on “what was, overall, a peaceful and transparent election. The election met key democratic benchmarks, providing for freedom of association, expression, assembly and movement, as well as equal and universal suffrage and the right to vote.”
The Prime Minister is now Danny Philip (Reform Democratic Party) and his deputy is Manasseh Maelanga.