FUNAFUTI, Feb 23 — Lawmakers in Tuvalu will elect a new prime minister on Monday, the election commissioner has told AFP, a month after the Pacific nation went to the polls.

Stormy weather and rough seas had prevented several MPs from travelling by boat from outer islands to the capital Funafuti to select a new leader.

All 16 elected members, who won their seats in the January elections, have now reached the capital after a boat bringing the final few arrived yesterday.

Election commissioner Tufoua Panapa told AFP that nominations will close Sunday, with the vote to elect the new premier to be held Monday morning at 1100 local time.

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“The governor general will release the result straight after the election,” Panapa added on Friday.

Tiny Tuvalu’s January 26 vote was closely watched in Beijing, Washington and Taipei amid rumours a new government could switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China.

Until a new government is formed, pro-Taiwan Prime Minister Kausea Natano, who lost his seat in the Funafuti constituency, remains in charge in a caretaker role.

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After a new prime minister is chosen, there is speculation that Tuvalu — one of just 12 states that still formally recognise Taiwan — could flip allegiance to China.

Neighbouring Nauru severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of China last month, feeding rumours Tuvalu could follow.

Beijing has already poached some of Taiwan’s Pacific allies, convincing Solomon Islands and Kiribati to switch recognition in 2019 before Nauru did the same.

Ahead of the election, Natano’s finance minister, Seve Paeniu, floated the idea of Tuvalu reviewing its Taiwan ties.

With no formal political parties, the process of selecting a new prime minister and potentially changing government had already been expected to be slow, before bad weather forced further delays. — AFP