Honiara: Voting began
peacefully amid tight security in the Solomon Islands election
on Wednesday with the opening of almost 900 polling stations strewn
across the South Pacific nation`s 1,000 islands.
Police, fearing an outbreak of violence that has marred
previous polls, patrolled the streets of the capital, Honiara,
and visited voting places in outlying areas.
An Australian-led international security force has
maintained the peace in the Solomons since 2003, after
hundreds were killed in ethnic violence that drove at least
20,000 people from their homes.
Derek Sikua, who became Solomons prime minister in 2007,
is seeking re-election. Sikua replaced Mannaseh Sogavare, who
was elected prime minister by Parliament after the last
general election in 2006, but was later ousted in a
Sogavare heads the main opposition party and is Sikua`s
main rival for the prime minister`s post.
More than 500 candidates were seeking election to the
Solomons` 50-seat Parliament. Vote counting is expected to
begin Thursday and be completed by Sunday.
Chief electoral officer Polycarp Haununu said voter
turnout was strong despite heavy rain in some areas. He said
there was no disorder at any polling stations.
"I have had reports of a very, very high turnout in some
constituencies," Haununu said. "There is
a strong police presence at polling stations to ensure polling
More than 60 international election observers will work
alongside 400 local observers to monitor the vote.
"The conduct of peaceful, transparent and credible
elections is vital for Solomon Islands, and we urge all
concerned to meet their responsibilities in this regard," the
head of the Commonwealth Observer Group, Dr Arthur Donahoe,
said in a statement.