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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 07:03 GMT
New PM for Solomon Islands
Solomon Islands parliament
Members of parliament chose the new prime minister
By Phil Mercer in Sydney

The new prime minister of the Solomon Islands has been chosen by the country's recently elected members of parliament.

He is Sir Allan Kemakeza, the leader of the People's Alliance Party who was sacked as deputy prime minister in the last government after a scandal involving compensation payments to war victims.

The Solomons is still reeling from the effects of an ethnic conflict more than a year after a peace deal was signed.

When the results of a general election were declared two weeks ago none of the major parties had the numbers for an overall majority in the new 50-member parliament.

There followed an intense period of lobbying from which Sir Allan Kemakeza has emerged victorious. He had the support of 29 MPs after the first round of voting.

Economic problems

His nearest rival was the man ousted in last year's coup, Bartholomew Ulufa'alu.

Armed police were on guard outside the parliament in the capital Honiara as the votes were cast.

Sir Allan will now form a government which will serve a four-year term in office. It faces enormous challenges. The country is on the verge of economic breakdown and ethnic tensions still simmer.

The coflict between militants from the two main islands of Guadacanal and Maliata has left a legacy of mistrust and fear. More than 100 people were killed and thousands left homeless during the fighting.

Bartholomew Ulufa'alu
Mr Ulufa'alu failed to win back support
Diplomats estimate there are still more than 500 high-powered weapons still in the hands of rebel gunmen. A peace accord brokered by the Australians made decommissioning one of its key aims.

The new prime minister has been warned by the man he replaces to treat the fragile peace process with care. In his final address to the nation, the outgoing prime minister Manasseh Sogavare warned the Solomons could not afford further ethnic unrest.

It is unclear if Sir Allan Kemakeza will be a popular choice at the head of a new government, having been dismissed amid scandal just two months ago.

Reports from Honiara say there was a less than enthusiastic response from the crowd that had gathered outside the parliament to hear the result. Nobody cheered when the governor-general made the announcement that the disgraced former deputy prime minister now had the top job.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff
"He and his deputy have been the subject of considerable controversy"
See also:

11 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Solomon Islands waiting for new PM
05 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Solomon poll passes peacefully
03 Dec 01 | Asia-Pacific
Violence stalks Solomon Islands poll
15 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
Solomons weapons handover urged
10 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Hope for Solomons peace
07 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ethnic tension behind Solomons coup
04 Dec 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Solomon Islands
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Coup in Solomon Islands
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Pacific unrest linked?
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