Thu, Nov 20, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Solomon Islands holds first election post-intervention election

Reuters, SYDNEY

The Solomon Islands went to the polls yesterday in the first election since an Australian-led peacekeeping intervention ended last year, with officials hoping biometric voter registration had worked to end endemic voter fraud in the South Pacific island nation.

The Solomon Islands have been racked by instability since 1998, culminating in widespread ethnic violence and the deployment of a peacekeeping force in 2003. The peacekeeping intervention lasted a decade before being scaled back to a policing mission.

The election was set to be the first under joint Solomon Island and international security with 1,000 police deployed at polling booths, often in remote islands. Some voters must spend days to reach polling stations by boat or on foot. Voting is expected to take three days to complete.

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo signed the “election transparency pledge” sought by the corruption watchdog Transparency International to try and ensure that voting would be above board.

He also introduced biometric voter registration and issued voter identification cards to try and prevent multiple voting. Voters have been scanned across 867 polling stations to capture a defining feature, such as a thumbprint.

“We’re still concerned about what is essentially vote-buying,” Transparency International’s Advocacy Legal and Advice Centre director Louise Hiele said.

More than 280,000 voters are registered to vote after an audit removed 160,000 fraudulent registrations.

Hiele said voter identification cards issued once a biometric reading of a voter had been taken were “hot currency” offered to some candidates in exchange for money or gifts.

Hundreds of candidates and 12 parties were set to contest 50 seats in the Solomon Islands parliament.

Lilo was appointed prime minister in 2011 after his predecessor resigned over allegations he had misappropriated a US$10 million development fund provided by Taiwan.

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