(Bloomberg) -- Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has failed to win a majority in parliamentary elections, setting the stage for coalition negotiations in coming weeks to form the next government.

Sogavare’s Ownership, Unity and Responsibility Party has won 15 of 50 seats so far in the parliament, according to the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corp. With almost all counting now completed, the incumbent will need to secure support from minority parties and independent lawmakers if he wants another term in office.

The talks will be closely monitored from Washington to Beijing and Canberra. A loss by Sogavare would set back the Chinese government’s strategic ambitions in the Pacific, with the Solomon Islands its closest partner in the region. Some candidates to replace Sogavare have suggested they would move the Pacific nation closer to Taiwan and look at altering agreements with Beijing that were signed during his administration.

Under Sogavare in 2019 the Solomon Islands switched its diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan, leaving Taipei increasingly isolated. That was followed in April 2022 by the announcement that Sogavare had signed a security agreement with China, setting off alarm bells in Australia and the US.

Read: China, Taiwan Ties Hang in the Balance in Solomon Islands Vote

While Sogavare still has a chance of forming government, there was a far higher vote for opposition parties in the 2024 election, according to Anouk Ride, a research fellow at the Australian National University’s Department of Pacific Affairs.

“There’s a significant shift in voters’ preferences toward the opposition, so one would expect that popular vote for the opposition will translate into leadership,” she said. 

But Ride added there were a number of big personalities among the parties opposed to Sogavare. “The issue is whether the opposition can form alliances amongst each other to form a viable coalition.”

The ballot was held on April 17, however counting has proceeded slowly due to the dispersed nature of the islands that comprise the Pacific nation. Once the vote is decided, lawmakers will gather in the capital of Honiara to hammer out a coalition and, eventually, name the nation’s next prime minister.

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