Solomon Islanders go to the polls

Solomon Islanders voted Wednesday in the Pacific nation`s first election since the completion of a major peacekeeping mission, with early indications the poll was trouble free.

Honiara: Solomon Islanders voted Wednesday in the Pacific nation`s first election since the completion of a major peacekeeping mission, with early indications the poll was trouble free.

Extra police were on patrol in Honiara, which was hit by rioting after a 2006 election, but Royal Solomon Islands Police Force Commissioner Frank Prendergast said he was pleased with the public`s behaviour.

"This is an extremely important election for the country," he told Radio New Zealand.

"The RSIPF is committed to ensuring that everyone gets to vote freely and fairly. And we are also committed to ensuring that the process occurs peacefully."

About 290,000 voters will cast their ballots for 400 candidates vying for 50 seats.

The Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) has brought in almost 100 officers from Australia, New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Tuvalu as a contingency.

Just over a decade ago, the Solomons government was at the mercy of warlords, ethnic militants and a corrupt police force, with virtually no control outside Honiara.

RAMSI, an Australian-led peacekeeping force, set out to restore law and order in 2003.

While there were isolated outbreaks of unrest, most notably rioting after elections in 2006, the situation had stabilised enough for RAMSI to end its military operation last year and change its focus to policing and governance.

Results of the election are not expected to be known for several days as they trickle in from far-flung island electorates.

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