China’s most significant inroads into the Pacific will face their biggest test when Solomon Islanders go to the ballot box.

Manasseh Sogavare, whose cosying up to China has characterised his fourth non-consecutive term as prime minister, faces the polls next week for the first time since severing diplomatic ties with Taiwan and signing a security pact with Beijing.

The growing relationship with the global power has brought many fruits to the island nation including a $A100 million national stadium complex and a $100m loan for a Huawei-led broadband rollout.

But, as well as being the impetus for two riots in recent years, the realignment has rung alarm bells in Canberra and Washington over concerns for China’s motives and the implications for defence routes and regional stability.

Sitting northeast of Australia, the nation of 720,000 has long been considered a strategic territory for larger powers, a point made clear by sunken World War II warships scattered along its coast..

Mr Sogavare, recently dubbed the “Master of Mayhem” by one expert, has pledged to continue courting both China and US allies if he wins on Wednesday, adopting a Look North policy and a “friends to all, enemies to none” stance.

His plans for dearly needed socio-economic growth involves tapping into foreign infrastructure initiatives including China’s Belt and Road projects and Australian-sponsored programs.

Opposition parties meanwhile have promised to either tear up the Chinese security pact, hold a national vote on it or even abandon diplomatic ties with Beijing all together.

Former diplomat to the Solomon Islands Mihai Sora said the national vote on Wednesday would be one of the most consequential since independence 46 years ago.

“Solomon Islands has been the site of the most rapid strategic gains that China has made in the Pacific in recent years,” Mr Sora, now a research fellow at the Lowy Institute, told AAP.

“That has a direct impact on regional security and therefore on Australia’s national security.”

Mr Sogavare has repeatedly said he would not allow any military base to be built in the Solomon Islands – a red Australian line for and US forces.

But the mainstay in Solomons politics for the past quarter century recently raised eyebrows for praising the “Chinese style” socialism of Beijing system.

He also attacked the “do whatever you want” feature of democracy that, he said, had led to same-sex marriage and asked what values were comfortable for the deeply Christian nation.

Clive Moore, Emeritus Professor at the University of Queensland, has closely watched Mr Sogavare since he was first elected prime minister in 2000 during years-long domestic conflict known as the Tensions.

“He’s a very skillful politician whether you like him or not,” Prof Moore, a recipient of the Solomons equivalent of a knighthood, told AAP.

“He has has learned how to manipulate the sections of government that he needs and he’s made the position of prime minister increasingly authoritarian.”

But voters would only accept that if livelihoods were improving, Prof Moore said.

The economy remains narrow and capacity gaps in health, education and infrastructure leave the average Solomons Islander earning about $A3300 a year.

The 2023 Pacific Games, centred around the $100 million national stadium gifted by China, are credited by the prime minister for driving the economy out of three years of negative growth.

Further energy and transport projects are expected to drive growth to three per cent next year, according to the World Bank.

But the annual cost of maintaining the stadium outstrips annual spending on medicines, Opposition leader Matthew Wale has said as he runs on improving healthcare.

“After the election, if the people think they’ve been cheated, (capital) Honiara does burst into flames every now and then,” Prof Moore said.

About 430 Australian police and military personnel will be on hand to assist local police with the elections, alongside New Zealand and Pacific forces.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong and other Australian officials have emphasised Australia saw the Solomons as “family” and the nation’s “natural partner”.

More than 6000 Solomon Islanders work in Australia, with remittances contributing about three per cent to the Solomons’ economy.

The Solomons also receives more Australian foreign aid than any other nation, bar Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.

About $170 million a year goes to projects ranging from renovating provincial marketplaces to extensive policing support.

The past three polls have sparked rioting, leading officials to impose a 10-day alcohol ban nationwide starting on Tuesday.

Closer scrutiny will also be over “Devil’s Night” – the evening before polls open when political operatives resort to last-ditch tactics, transport arrangements and vote-buying to turn out electors for their side.

For the first time, provincial elections will be held alongside the national poll, likely delaying counting.

The various dynamics – including the large contingent of independents expected to be re-elected – make predicting a result difficult for experts, even if Mr Sogavare is in the box seat.

“Votes are impacted by so many matters including self-interest, sometimes bribes or thinking the local MP will do good things for voters personally,” Dr Anouk Ride, research fellow at Australian National University’s Pacific Affairs department, told AAP.

“(Other factors included) loyalty to MPs through tribal or church connections, and ideological positions, like whether the MP will support democracy, or their position on the economy.”

Once results are declared, MPs will converge on Honiara hotels to negotiate the next coalition government and appoint the prime minister.

Mr Sogavare will attempt an unprecedented re-election as prime minister.

“We’re looking at several weeks of uncertainty around who will form government unless one side wins a large majority,” Dr Ride said.

It remains to be seen whether Solomon Islanders stand alongside Mr Sogavare and adopt his vision to “look north”.

▶ Làm Bằng Cấp Đại Học, Cao Đẳng, Trung Cấp, THPT,..... CÁC GIẤY TỜ 01218076508 LươngThis article was made possible through the Melbourne Press Club’s Michael Gordon Journalism Fellowship Program.