Jamie Vokia, a first-time MP and also a member of the ruling government, has lost his Northeast Guadalcanal seat in Parliament following a successful petition lodged by the former MP Dr Derek Sikua.
Justice Emmanuel Kouhota found MP Vokia guilty of three grounds of bribery. He ruled that Vokia’s election as MP for Northeast Guadalcanal is null and void. Vokia was tried on four grounds but Justice Kouhota dismissed one ground of bribery.
Mr Vokia unseated his runner up Dr Derek Sikua 1,835 to 1629 votes, during last year’s election, a major upset in last years elections.
Election observers from the Australian National University recently released a report on last year's poll, in which they said they saw fewer instances of money politics compared with previous elections.
But they concluded it was probable it was still happening — only that it likely had just been driven further underground.
James Batley, a former Australian High Commissioner to Solomon Islands, led the team of ANU observers, told Pacific Beat that although there are around 20 more cases to be heard in coming weeks, "it's too early to say this might lead to a major shake up in politics".
But he believes anti-corruption activists will be buoyed by the guilty verdicts.
"There was a sense of...disappointment that the first series of [election] petitions had not succeeded, and I think there was as developing sense of 'what's the point, the system really wasn't working'," he told Pacific Beat.
"I think that the fact that two petitions were upheld will give people encouragement that the system does work."