The Solomon Islands government said on Tuesday that the timing of an offer from Australia to fund its next election was inappropriate because a bill to delay the vote was already before its parliament.
Australia’s foreign affairs minister Penny Wong said on Tuesday Australia had offered to finance the next election in the Solomon Islands, after its prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, said the Pacific island nation couldn’t afford to fund the Pacific Games and an election in the same year.
An election is due in May 2023, but Sogavare wants it delayed until 2024, and on Tuesday introduced legislation to change the constitution to allow a delay in the four-year election cycle.
The bid to delay the election has been criticised by Solomon Islands opposition parties, which say business and community groups are unhappy about it.
The Solomon Islands government said in a statement it appreciated the offer from Australia but the timing was “inappropriate”.
Members of Parliament should debate and vote on the bill allowing for a delay, as required by the Constitution, and it was not something the Australian government should influence, it said.
“This is an assault on our parliamentary democracy and is a direct interference by a foreign government into our domestic affairs,” it said.
Wong earlier on Tuesday told ABC Radio that Australia recently supported Papua New Guinea to hold a general election, and made a similar offer to the Solomon Islands.
“It reflects our long standing and historical commitment to supporting democracy and democratic processes in the Solomon Islands,” she said.
Australia supported the last election, in 2019, and already provides funding of $5.7 million to the Solomon Islands Electoral Office for reform programmes.
Australia’s department of foreign affairs and trade did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the statement by the Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands signed a security pact with China in April raising concern in the United States, Australia and New Zealand about China’s growing influence in the Pacific.