Remaining MPs Arrive at Tuvalu Capital to Vote for New Prime Minister

Remaining MPs Set to Arrive

New Members of Parliament (MP) are expected to vote this weekend or early next week for Tuvalu’s next prime minister. The vote was delayed for at least one month due to adverse weather preventing several MPs from traveling to the country’s capital, Funafuti.

However, the final MPs, two each from the northernmost island of Nanumea, were expected to arrive in the capital by the 22nd or 23rd. The Parliament will then vote for the next prime minister after the MPs campaign for the PM position and after the Governor General sets a date for the first meeting.

Tuvalu’s Parliament building (Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Jamie Tahana)

The government considered holding the vote in a hybrid setting, and the Attorney General’s Office and the Office of the Secretary to Government recommended this option to the Governor General. However, the Governor General decided against it due to adverse weather clearing during the week and allowing the MPs to travel to the capital.

Potential Prime Minister

While MPs campaigning for the PM position have likely begun, the most likely candidate will be Feleti Teo, an MP and former Director General of the Pacific Island Forum Fisheries Agency. Teo obtained 12 of the 16 votes in Parliament by negotiating with members of the previous government and opposition to join his coalition. Furthermore, Teo will likely create a coalition government through his group since the new legislature now consists of three groups: six new members, six returning members from the last government, and four from the opposition.

Analysis

Tuvalu’s Parliament will likely elect Teo as the country’s new PM as early as next week. Teo’s election as the new PM will likely mean that Tuvalu will continue its formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan and not switch its recognition to China. Taiwan’s concerns stem largely from the potential that Finance Minister Seve Paeni could become the country’s new PM. Paeni previously indicated that he would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China as he campaigned during the recent legislative elections. Specifically, he said he would review Tuvalu’s relationship with both countries and make the best choice for Tuvalu if he was elected as the new PM.

Another concern is that China will increase its offensive against Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies to make them severe ties with the island in favor of the mainland. Nauru’s announcement that the country switched recognition from Taiwan to China a day after William Lai won the presidential election strengthened this argument. However, it is unlikely that Tuvalu will change its relationship with Taiwan if Teo is elected since he is considered pro-Taiwan. China will continue its influence operations in Tuvalu to garner support from both local businessmen and politicians to install a government more friendly to Beijing and will recognize China.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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