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By Koroi Hawkins, RNZ Pacific editor

Jeremiah Manele has been elected Prime Minister of Solomon Islands, polling 31 votes to 18 over rival candidate and former opposition leader Mathew Wale with one abstention.

The final result of the election by secret ballot was announced by the Governor-General, Sir David Vunagi, on the steps of Parliament in Honiara today.

Going into the vote, Manele’s camp had claimed the support of 28 MPs while Wale’s camp said they had 20.

Manele’s victory signals a return of the incumbent government formerly headed by Manasseh Sogavare.

Manele’s administration, which calls itself the Government for National Unity and Transformation (GNUT), is made up of three parties — his own Our Party is the largest followed by Manasseh Maelanga’s People’s First Party and Jamie Vokia’s Kandere Party.

Collectively, the parties came out of the election with 19 MPs but have added nine more to their ranks. We will know which MPs have joined what parties once the registrar of political parties updates its political party membership lists.

In the lead up to the election, Manele and his coalition partners were working on merging their policy priorities into a 100 day plan which they are expected to announce to the public in the coming days.

Once Manele has sorted the compostion of his cabinet, he will notify the Governor-General to set a date for the first sitting of Parliament during which all 50 members of Parliament will be sworn in and Sir David Vunagi will deliver the speech from the throne, the traditional opening address to Parliament.

‘I will discharge my duties diligently and with integrity’ – Manele
In his first national address on the steps of Parliament, Manele congratulated the people of Solomon Islands on a successful election and called for peace.

“Past prime ministers’ elections have been met with the act of violence and destruction,” he said.

“Our economy and livelihoods have suffered because of this violence. However, today we show the world that we are better than that.

“We must uphold and respect the democratic process of electing our prime minister and set an example for our children and their children.”

Manele paid tribute to the traditional landowners of the island of Guadalcanal on which the capital Honiara is situated.

He also outlined next steps starting with the formation of his cabinet which he said he would announce in the coming days and the first sitting of parliament when all MPs will be sworn in.

He said members of his coalition government were finalising their 100 day plan which they hoped to unveil soon.

Manele said there were also a number of laws that were ready to come before Parliament.

“These bills include the value added tax bill, special economics zone bill, the mineral resources bill, the forestry bill and others.

“Cabinet will meet to decide on the priority legislative and policy programmes for 2024. Which includes whether we need to revise the 2024 budget or not,” he said.

Finally, he said he was very humbled by the trust that his fellow MPs had bestowed upon him.

“This is indeed a historic moment for my people of Isabel Province to have one of their sons as the prime minister of Solomon Islands.

“I will discharge my duties diligently and with integrity. I will at all times put the interests of our people and country above all other interests.

“Leading a nation is never an easy task. I ask that you remember me and your government in your daily prayers so we may serve as our lord commands.”

He pledged his loyalty and allegiance to the country’s national anthem, national flag, and the constitution.

“We are one people, we are one nation, we are Solomon Islands. To God be the glory great things He has done. May God bless you all may God bless the 12th parliament and may God bless Solomon Islands from shore to shore.”

Who is Jeremiah Manele?
Jeremiah Manele, who turns 56 this year, is the member of Parliament for Hograno Kia Havulei in Isabel Province.

He is the country’s first ever prime minister from Isabel where his home village is Samasodu.

Manele served as minister of foreign affairs in the last government and ran in this election under the Our Party Banner. However, he has previously been affiliated with the Democratic Alliance Party.

He was first elected to Parliament in 2014 and was the leader of the opposition in the country’s 10th Parliament. He has also previously served as the minister for development planning and aid coordination in the 11th Parliament.

Prior to entering Parliament, Manele was a longserving public servant and diplomat representing the country as Chargé d’Affaires, of the Solomon Islands Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Papua New Guinea and a Certificate in Foreign Service and International Relations from Oxford University.

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

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