Feleti Teo is named Tuvalu39s new prime minister after elections.com2Fc92F4e2Fdc4b9025b1182ed3cc9210ce6afa2Fbed1c7e5441543ed8c5e4ba1db2a67a9

Feleti Teo is named Tuvalu's new prime minister after elections ousted Taiwan supporters

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Tuvalu's former attorney general Feleti Teo was named prime minister of the small South Pacific country on Monday after the last leader was ousted in elections a month ago.

Teo was the only candidate nominated by his 15 fellow MPs and Governor General Tofiga Vaevalu Falani declared him elected without a vote, Government Secretary Tufoua Panapa said in a statement.

The swearing-in ceremony for Teo and his cabinet will take place later this week.

It was not immediately clear how the new administration will affect China's influence in the country of about 11,500 people halfway between Australia and Hawaii.

Former Prime Minister Kausea Natano and three of his eight ministers were not re-elected in the January 26 election.

Natano wanted Tuvalu to remain one of only 12 countries that have official diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the self-governing democracy that China claims as its own territory.

Natano's former finance minister Seve Paeniu, seen as a leadership contender, had advocated reviewing Tuvalu's relations with both Beijing and Taiwan.

A proposed security treaty between Tuvalu and Australia could be rewritten or scrapped under the new government. The treaty, announced in November last year, commits Australia to assist Tuvalu in the event of major natural disasters, pandemics and military aggression.

Australia offered Tuvalu residents a lifeline to help residents escape rising sea levels and increasing storms caused by climate change. Tuvalu's low-lying atolls make it particularly vulnerable to global warming. Australia would initially allow up to 280 Tuvaluans to come to Australia each year.

The treaty, which has yet to be ratified, would also give Australia veto power over any security or defense agreement Tuvalu wishes to enter into with any other country, including China.

Tuvaluan MP Enele Sopoaga, who was prime minister until the last election in 2019, is against the treaty.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese mentioned the contract when congratulating Teo on his election.

“Australia deeply values ​​our relationship with Tuvalu in the spirit of the Falepili Union,” Albanese said on social media, referring to the treaty officially known as the Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union.

“Tuvalu can count on Australia’s support and I look forward to working with Prime Minister Teo,” Albanese added.

Before Teo was named prime minister, Meg Keen, director of the Pacific Island Program at the Lowy Institute, a Sydney-based think tank, said the new government would review the treaty and “put its own stamp” on it.

“I think improvements can be negotiated and the deal has a good chance of being implemented,” Keen said.

George Carter, an expert in international politics at the Australian National University, said Teo received support from a majority of 10 of the 16 lawmakers within two weeks of the election.

Carter said Teo's supporters want Tuvalu to continue ties with Taiwan and that a change in loyalty to Beijing is unlikely in the near future.

“I think he will try not to shake the current thinking about supporting Taiwan for the time being. But things could change,” he said.

Carter said Teo had told his supporters that Sopoaga, the former prime minister, and Paeniu, the former finance minister, would be expelled from his cabinet.


Lavalette contributed from Perth, Australia.