Tuvalu names Feleti Teo prime minister after pro-Taiwan leader Kausea Natano ousted

Tuvalu names Feleti Teo prime minister after pro-Taiwan leader Kausea Natano ousted

Lawmakers in Tuvalu have elected Feleti Teo as the new prime minister of the Pacific island nation, following an election that spotlighted its relations with Taiwan. Feleti Teo, a former attorney general, garnered the support of recently elected lawmakers, as confirmed by government secretary Tufoua Panapa to Agence France-Presse on Monday.

Speculation has arisen regarding Tuvalu’s stance on diplomatic relations, particularly as one of the few remaining states to formally recognize Taiwan. There have been suggestions that Tuvalu might consider establishing ties with Beijing. However, after Teo’s appointment, Taiwan’s ambassador to Tuvalu, Andrew Lin, expressed confidence in the enduring relationship between the two nations, citing assurances from the new prime minister regarding the solidity and longevity of their ties.

Teo’s ascension to the position of prime minister follows the departure of his predecessor, Kausea Natano, who supported maintaining relations with Taipei but lost his seat in the recent general elections. With neighboring Nauru recently opting to switch recognition from Taiwan to China, there have been murmurs suggesting Tuvalu might follow suit.

Beijing’s efforts to sway Pacific nations away from Taiwan have been evident, with Solomon Islands and Kiribati switching recognition in 2019. Ahead of the elections, there were discussions within Tuvalu’s government about reassessing its relationship with Taiwan, particularly initiated by Natano’s finance minister, Seve Paeniu.

Teo’s appointment as prime minister, made without opposition, marks a significant moment in Tuvalu’s political landscape. He is set to be inaugurated along with his cabinet ministers later in the week. However, the impact of this leadership change on Tuvalu’s diplomatic stance remains uncertain.

Jess Marinaccio, an assistant professor in Pacific Studies at California State University, highlighted the uncertainty surrounding Teo’s position on international relations, given his recent roles and limited government experience. Nevertheless, issues such as diplomatic ties, climate change, and telecommunications are expected to feature prominently on the agenda of Teo’s administration, reflecting the multifaceted challenges facing Tuvalu.