See Jonathan’s update on the prime ministerial vote, which put the former party back in power, despite its poor showing in the election. What was that I was saying (below) about it being hard in the Solomons for voters to throw out the “bums”? It is hard enough at the individual district level. Harder still at the aggregate government level when the cabinet-formation process is all about post-election bargaining and so many outcomes are possible, depending on the way the many non-party MPs break.
The parliamentary general election in the Solomon Islands was on 5 April. About half of the fifty incumbents lost their seats.
I do not follow Solomon Islands politics (can’t follow them all!), but from the little I know, I can surmise that the political process is similar to that of its larger neighbor, Papua New Guinea. Like PNG, the Solomons are one of the plurality-in-single-seat-districts systems that defy even the most relaxed and generalized versions of Duverger’s Law: No two-party system nationally; not even two-party competition at the district level. In fact, hardly a party system at all.
A look at the 2001 results shows a PNG-like fragmentation: Many districts won by very narrow pluralities, often by independent candidates. So, government-formation is all about post-election coalitions and PM candidates providing patronage to individual MPs and their constituents.
It is not as though the defeat of about half the incumbents in the 2006 election was a great sweep of “throw the bums out.” Election outcomes in many districts are almost random, given the numbers of candidates running and the narrow margins. And it is not as if voters in most cases could know on which opposition candidate they should coordinate if they had a collective “will” to oust their incumbent. Nor is there any obvious connection between the district vote and the government outcome, in the absence of broad national parties.
In 2001, by my count (not to be taken as definitive, but it should not be off by much), 12 of 50 districts were won with less than 25% of the vote (one by under 14%!). Another 10 were won by between 25% and 33%. Only ten were won with more than 50%, and nearly all of those were by huge margins, and hence were not meaningfully contested.
In 2001, 26 incumbents were defeated and 19 reelected (the other districts apparently were open seats). In one district, the incumbent obtained only 9.3% of the vote, although that was good enough for third place (against a winner who ‘ran away’ with the race with his 35.5). Obviously, if you do not like incumbency advantage, you will like Solomon Islands elections, where turnover is extremely high.
Twenty two of the 50 seats were won in 2001 by independents, and the largest party won 12 seats. (The BBC story linked above says 20, but I assume this counts independents or candidates of other parties who joined the leading party post-election, but pre-government-formation.)
These patterns are all quite similar to what is seen in PNG elections.
In few places is politics more “local” than in the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.