A vote to renew Parliament is scheduled to take place on Friday in Tuvalu, a small Polynesian country located in the Pacific Ocean and considered one of the first countries in the world to be at risk. Final disappearance Because of climate change. The elections will elect 16 members of the local parliament, who will then elect a new prime minister. Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world, with an area of ​​26 square kilometres, and the second least populated country, with a population of about 12,000. However, today's elections are also receiving significant attention abroad, mainly due to the island's ties to China.

The three main candidates for the post of Prime Minister are the outgoing Prime Minister, Kosia Natano, who is running again; Opposition leader and former Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga; The current Minister of Economy, Seif Payno.

The main differences between the three countries relate to some issues related to relations between Tuvalu and China: in particular the relations that the island must maintain with Taiwan, a de facto independent state that China considers part of its territory, and with Australia, which is part of its territory. It competes with China to extend its influence in the Pacific region.

Funafuti, the main island of Tivalu, as seen from above

Funafuti, the main island of Tivalu, as seen from above (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

The first thing to keep in mind is that Tuvalu is one of 12 countries in the world that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and that other small countries in the Pacific have cut ties with the island in recent years to get closer to China. Second, given the risks associated with climate change, Tuvalu is discussing a security treaty with Australia. The treaty would oblige Australia to assist Tuvalu in the event of major natural disasters That would give her veto power Regarding any security or defense agreement that Tuvalu wishes to conclude with other countries, including China.

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Meanwhile, Tuvalu has concluded another agreement with Australia to allow citizens at risk of displacement due to climate change to go and live on Australian territory: nearly a fifth of Tuvalu's population has already emigrated, most of them to New Zealand.

Funafuti, the capital of Tuvalu (EPA/MICK TSIKAS AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT/ANSA)

Of the three candidates, Natano favors maintaining diplomatic relations with Taiwan and ratifying the security treaty with Australia, which he himself implemented. He promoted With Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The second candidate, Sopoaga, said he supports maintaining relations with Taiwan but opposes moving forward with the security treaty with Australia.

The third, Bainio, has very skeptical positions especially regarding Taiwan and is seen as the candidate closest to China: he said he wanted to “review Tuvalu’s relations with both Taiwan and China,” and added that after the elections the new government would have to do so. “Take a stand on this issue.” According to some analyses, he was elected It could be This effectively led to the collapse of diplomatic relations between Tuvalu and Taiwan, which had existed since 1979, in favor of China.

– Read also: How long will Tuvalu exist?

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