China's growing sway in Solomon Islands will face a major test Thursday, when newly elected lawmakers gather to pick the Pacific nation's next prime minister.

Incumbent Manasseh Sogavare withdrew from the contest after failing to secure an election majority, depriving Beijing of one of its staunchest supporters in the region.

Sogavare has backed foreign minister Jeremiah Manele in his place, a former bureaucrat who is likely to persevere with the last government's pro-Beijing policies.