While rugby league and the prospect of a Tongan team taking the World Cup is currently gripping Tongans around the world, in the Kingdom there is an election to be won on Thursday.
Massey University Pasifika Director Associate Professor Malakai Kolamatangi will be an observer at the election and says this is what you need to know ahead of the vote.
- The election is a year early after King George Tupou the sixth dismissed the country’s scandal-ridden Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva and dissolved parliament in August and called for a fresh election.
- The Government was dissolved on the advice of the Speaker of the House Lord Tu’ivakano and the Tongan Privy Council. It follows a series of Government controversies including the dismissal of three cabinet ministers including one convicted of bribery, the creation of a golf course at the Popua wetland and heritage area, a decision to part privatise the National Broadcaster and the decision to pull out of hosting the Pacific Games.
- This is only the third time Tongans have gone to the polls since a new electoral system was introduced in 2010. Tongan is the only constitutional monarchy in the Pacific.
- Voters get to vote for 17 of the 26 Legislative Assembly of Tonga seats. Nine seats are held by members of the nobility who elect representatives amongst themselves and the PM can choose to appoint up to 4 people non-elected people to his cabinet.
- Former New Zealand cabinet minister and speaker of the house Margaret Wilson, is leading the first ever Commonwealth Observer team to observe the Tongan elections.
- Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva was the first commoner to be elected prime minister in 2014 and his will be the most hotly contested seat with 11 candidates running
- 59,000 people are registered to vote in the election up 8000 on last election when voter turnout was 79%
- The swiftness of the election has caught out some potential politicians living off shore because in order to be eligible candidates must have lived in Tonga for the previous three months to an election.
- The country’s only elected woman MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu, won her seat in a by election in 2016 but in this election, there are 15 women candidates running – the highest number ever.
- Tonga’s 170 islands are spread over nearly 700,000 square kilometres. Polling from the outer islands have to be called in by polling supervisors to the Electoral Commission on the main island Tongatapu and results are expected before 11pm