Solomon Islands premier keeps job
The loser criticized a rift with Australia in the campaign
HONIARA, Solomon Islands » Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare retained his post yesterday after surviving a parliamentary vote of confidence.
Opposition leader Fred Fono's no-confidence motion failed to gain enough support, with a majority of the South Pacific nation's lawmakers voting for Sogavare, five months after he was elected prime minister.
Fono said many lawmakers opposed Sogavare over a widening rift between the prime minister and Australia -- whose troops are keeping the peace in the Solomons following riots in April -- and because of his support for a top official involved in a child-sex scandal.
Fono's bid to unseat Sogavare won support from just 17 lawmakers, with the government's 28 votes easily defeating the motion in the 50-seat Parliament.
Even with two senior government lawmakers voting with the opposition to unseat the premier, the bid to oust him was lost after 10 hours of debate.
Fono claimed Monday that a number of Cabinet ministers and government lawmakers had signed a preliminary agreement to oust Sogavare and replace him with one of their own.
Sogavare said the opposition had postponed a vote last Friday on its no-confidence motion because it knew it did not have enough support.
Sogavare has been a controversial leader since he replaced former Prime Minister Snyder Rini, who resigned ahead of a no-confidence vote days after the April 18 riots that leveled the Chinatown area of the capital, Honiara.
"This motion is to save the nation and redirect government," Fono told Parliament. "The country has suffered more in the past five months than at any other time in (its) history."
Sogavare's win is set to strain the island nation's already weakened relationship with Australia as he accused Canberra of attempting to undermine his leadership with opposition support.
"They have sold themselves to Canberra. This is a foreign-influenced motion of no confidence," he told lawmakers. "This motion is about the feelings of Australia."