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Two contenders for new Solomons prime minister

Agence France Presse - August 21, 2010

The politically volatile Solomon Islands will have its 14th change of prime minister in just 32 years since independence.

This is after two new names emerged as the only nominees for next week's vote.

Under the Solomons political system, all 50 MPs vote on who will be the prime minister and there has been intense lobbying in the two weeks since the general election to whittle down the number of potential candidates.

When nominations closed yesterday for next Wednesday's vote, two rival political alliances emerged, putting forward the names of second-term MP Steve Abana and political veteran Danny Philip.

The Solomon Islands Democratic Party, which won the most seats in the election, preferred Mr Abana to caretaker prime minister Derek Sikua. He was planning and aid co-ordination minister in Mr Sikua's outgoing government.

The camp backing Mr Philip includes two-time former leader Manasseh Sogavare, who has been critical of the way the Solomons shapes its governments, describing the system as "groups of convenience" that have little concern for the national interest.

Mr Sogavare said it would be misleading for any political party to claim it had the mandate of the people to run the next government.

The Solomons political system has frequently produced fragile coalition governments. Since independence from Britain in 1978, the Pacific island nation has changed leader 13 times, producing nine different prime ministers with some holding office more than once.

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