Thursday (September 8th): Sogavare’s Hard Rejection

President Manasseh Sogavare (cropped) / 總統府

Name? Manasseh Sogavare

Westphalian identity? Solomon Islander

Age? 67

Why is he in the news? Recently, Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare of the Solomon Islands rejected assistance from Australian PM Anthony Albanese with the 2023 elections. However, Sogavare is currently pushing a bill through Parliament to postpone the elections until after the 2023 Pacific Games in the Solomon Islands, which his opposition decries as a “power grab”. At the same time, they called the assistance offer an “assault on parliamentary democracy”. 

Why do we care? Considering Australia’s foreign policy has included funding Pacific elections (and the Solomon Islands 2019 election), the PM’s public denial is unsurprising as the country moves away from the West. Earlier this year, Sogavare and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi signed a security agreement between the Solomon Islands and China. The agreement worries the Solomon Islands’ traditional partners, Australia and the US, as China’s influence in the Pacific islands heats up. 

Why should you care? This is another display in the battle for influence between the West and China. As Chinese influence seems to increasingly attract low- and medium-income countries, it will likely intensify the shifting dynamic of global politics. However, you should only care 3/10 about Sogavare’s power grab and denial of Australian assistance. 

Who else cares? US President Joe Biden and UK PM Lizz Truss are bound to care about the Solomon Islands’ move away from the West. Recently, both countries’ navies were denied docking privileges on the Solomon Islands, after Sogavare announced the closure of Solomon docks for foreign vessels. With Chinese ships’ possible continued access to the docks due to the security pact, the PM’s recent moves proved he is much more open to collaboration with China than the West had anticipated. 

Any further comments? Sogavare is set to visit Albanese in Australia soon. Surely the two will discuss their ongoing diplomatic climate, and if something can be done to turn the tides on his rapprochement with China.

Michael Duffy

Research & Analysis Member