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By Koroi Hawkins, RNZ Pacific editor in Honiara

After a relatively well organised and peaceful day of voting in Solomon Islands yesterday, the electoral commission is working with donor partners to safely transport ballot boxes from polling stations all over the country to centrally located counting venues.

It is a massive exercise with more than 200 New Zealand Defence Force personnel providing logistical support across the 29,000 sq km sprawling island chain to ensure that those who want to vote have an opportunity to do so.

Chief Electoral Officer Jasper Anisi said there were some preliminary processes to be completed once all ballot boxes were accounted for but he expected counting to begin today.

“Mostly it will be verification of ballot boxes and ballot papers from the polling stations. But once verification is done then counting will automatically start,” Anisi said.

Solomon Islanders queuing up to cast their ballots in Honiara. 17 April 2024
Solomon Islanders queuing up to cast their ballots in Honiara yesterday. Image: RNZ Pacific/Koroi Hawkins

The big issues
So what were the big election issues for Solomon Islanders at the polls yesterday?

A lack of government services, poor infrastructure development and the establishment of diplomatic ties with China are some of the things voters in the capital Honiara told RNZ Pacific they cared about.

Timothy Vai said he was unhappy with the former government’s decision to cut ties with Taiwan in 2019 so it could establish ties with China.

“I want to see a change. My aim in voting now is for a new government. Because we are a democratic country but we shifted [diplomatic ties] to a communist country,” Vai said.

Another voter, Minnie Kasi, wanted leaders to do more for herself and her community.

“My voting experience was good. I came to vote for the right person,” she said.

“Over the past four years I did not see anything delivered by the person I voted for last time which is why I am voting for the person I voted for today.”

Lack of government services
While Ethel Manera felt there was a lack of development and basic government services in her constitutency.

“Some infrastructure and sanitation [projects] they have not developed and they are still yet to develop and that is what I see should be developed in our country,” Manera said.

This is the first time the country has conducted simultaneous voting for national and provincial election candidates.

Anisi has said they would start by tallying the provincial results.

“The provincial results we count in wards,” he said.

“So wards have smaller numbers compared to the constituencies so you need to count all the wards in order to get the constituency number.”

Some visiting political experts and local commentators in Honiara think delaying the announcement of the national election results might pose a security risk if it takes too long and voters grow impatient.

But others say it is a good strategy because historically supporters of national candidates who win hold noisy public celebrations and if this is done first it could disrupt the counting of provincial results.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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