Feleti Teo named Tuvalu's new Prime Minister

Feleti Teo named Tuvalu's new Prime Minister
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Funafuti, Tuvalu: Tuvalu's parliamentary members have selected former Attorney General Feleti Teo as the Pacific Island nation's new prime minister following a general election that recently brought the country's relationship with Taiwan into focus, Al Jazeera reported.

Tuvalu's government announced on Monday that Teo, the sole candidate nominated by his 15 lawmaker colleagues, was declared elected without a vote.

Teo's elevation to the position of prime minister comes in the wake of the departure of his pro-Taiwan predecessor, Kausea Natano, who lost his seat in the January 26 election. Natano had advocated for Tuvalu, home to around 11,200 people, to maintain official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister Teo and his cabinet is scheduled for later this week. The political transition has raised questions about Tuvalu's stance on Taiwan, as well as its broader international relationships, including a defense and migration deal with Australia signed in November.

Australian PM Anthony Albanese congratulated Teo on getting elected as Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

"Warm congratulations to the Hon Feleti Teo on his election as Prime Minister of Tuvalu. Australia deeply values our relationship with Tuvalu, in the spirit of the Falepili Union. Tuvalu can count on Australia's support and I look forward to working with PM Teo," he said in a post on X.

Former finance minister Seve Paeniu, a potential leader, had suggested that the new government should debate the issue of diplomatic recognition of Taiwan or China. This raised concerns in Taiwan, especially following Nauru's recent decision to sever diplomatic ties with Taipei in favour of Beijing.

In addition to diplomatic considerations, there were calls by some Tuvalu lawmakers to review a comprehensive defence and migration agreement with Australia. The pact allows Canberra to oversee Tuvalu's police, port, and telecommunication cooperation with other nations, offering a defence guarantee and migration opportunities to citizens affected by rising sea levels, a crucial concern in the Pacific region. The deal was perceived as a move to counter China's increasing influence as an infrastructure provider in the Pacific Islands.

Teo, educated in New Zealand and Australia, holds the distinction of being Tuvalu's first attorney general and boasts extensive experience as a senior official in the fisheries industry, a significant revenue source for the region.

Simon Kofe, a Tuvalu lawmaker, congratulated Teo, noting, "It is the first time in our history that a Prime Minister has been nominated unopposed."

Persistent adverse weather conditions had delayed the announcement of the new prime minister, as several lawmakers were stranded on Tuvalu's outer islands, unable to reach the capital, Al Jazeera reported.