No place for Nobles in Parliament, CEC said, but admitted most people wanted no change

    Eight years after it was submitted to Parliament, Kaniva News reviews the Constitutional and Electoral Commission Report of 2009 and looks at one of the issues considered by the CEC: The place of the Nobles in Tonga’s Parliament.

    “Measured against current perceptions of democracy in much of today’s world, there can be no justification for the presence of the nobles in the Assembly.”

    That was the judgement of the Constitutional and Electoral Commission when it reported in 2009.

    The Report said that there was a general lack of opposition to the retention of the Nobles in Parliament in submissions to the Commission.

    “The presence of the nobles in the Legislative Assembly has long been accepted and is still regarded by a substantial number of members of the public as essential when considered against the traditional structure of Tongan society and the importance  of the ties of kainga  and  ha’a,” the Report said.

    However, there was a widespread wish for the Nobles to be elected  by the whole electorate.

    Some of the later submissions presented well articulated  and  sometimes,  powerful arguments against the Nobles’ continued presence in Parliament.

    The Commission said it would not matter whether the nine Nobles were elected by their own numbers or by the whole electorate.

    Under the existing situation a small group of Nobles would be voting to put an even smaller group of Nobles in Parliament.

    There would be no point in letting the whole electorate  vote for the Nobles when they would still be chosen from the same pools of 29 people.

    The Commission recommended that the number of Nobles in Parliament and the  method of electing them stay the same.

    “The decision to retain them will be seen by many outside our borders as a failure to grasp a chance to achieve democracy,” the Report said.

    “We define democracy by more than the right to elect a representative parliament. Much that truly defines democracy is already enshrined in traditional Tongan values.

    “We feel the continued presence of the nobles in the new and untried representative parliament will be accepted by most Tongans as a sensible and, possibly, necessary influence.”

    Elections

    At the last election the nine seats set aside for nobles were voted for by the hereditary nobles and five life peers.

    A late change to Tonga’s electoral law meant that life peers could stand as noble candidates in the last election.

    Before then life peers were able to vote for noble MPs but they were not allowed to stand for election.

    The main points

    • “Measured against current perceptions of democracy in much of today’s world, there can be no justification for the presence of the nobles in the Assembly.”
    • That was the judgement of the Constitutional and Electoral Commission when it reported in 2009.
    • However, there was a general lack of opposition to the retention of the Nobles in Parliament in submissions to the Commission.
    • The Commission recommended that the number of Nobles in Parliament and the method of electing them stay the same.

    For more information

    All but two nobles re-elected in Tonga

    Tonga’s life peers now able to become noble MPs

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