Solomon Islands opposition party chooses Wale as PM candidate

By Kirsty Needham

(Reuters) - The Solomon Islands opposition party coalition has selected Matthew Wale as its candidate for this week's vote for prime minister, a day after former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said he had withdrawn from the race.

Wale is the leader of the Solomon Islands Democratic Party, and he will vie with former foreign minister Jeremiah Manele, who has the backing of Sogavare's party, to lead the Pacific Islands nation.

A secret ballot of newly elected lawmakers to select the prime minister will be held on Thursday, after a national election last week delivered an inconclusive result.

Sogavare had drawn his nation closer to China, sharpening the United States' focus on the strategic importance of the Pacific Islands and upsetting neighbours including Australia, the biggest aid donor and traditional security partner.

The former government and an opposition coalition of parties calling itself CARE are competing to win support from 10 independents in the race to form a government.

In a statement on Tuesday, CARE said it had chosen Wale as their candidate for prime minister.

"I throw my full support behind his candidature for PM," United party leader Peter Kenilorea Jr said in a statement.

"The country had spoken loud and clear about the need for change by voting 25 new MPs into Parliament, a show of the great hunger for change," he added.

Local broadcaster SIBC reported popular Honiara politician and former prime minister Gordon Darcy Lilo had also joined CARE.

(Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Editing by Kim Coghill)