Op-ed: Noble MPs are kingmakers; carry weight of king’s wish for people to vote wisely in general election

    OP-ED It is now apparent that the nobility MPs are the kingmakers in the run for the premiership election after it appeared interim Prime Minister Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa and his interim Minister of Education Siaosi Sovaleni would face each other on the election day.

    Siaosi Sovaleni (L), Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa

    Kaniva News has learnt four MPs have indicated their support for Tu’i’onetoa while 11 MPs have indicated their support for Sovaleni.

    The noble’s representatives are now the kingmakers.

    This means Tu’ionetoa needs all nine Noble MPs, while Sovaleni will only need to get the support of two of them so he can be elected Prime Minister and form the new government.

    King’s wish

    The strong public support for the king’s recent calls for the people, after he reprimanded the Tu’i’onetoa government, to be wise and voted into Parliament only the best candidates has now become a duty for the nobility MPs.

    In deciding who to choose as the new Prime Minister, they must ensure they do not ruin the results of the people’s votes on November 18 which brought a highly regarded group of MPs with strong academic and business backgrounds into Parliament.

    Tu’i’onetoa’s records

    Tu’i’onetoa was re-elected and retained his Tongatapu 10 seat in what many believed was the result of his controversial development policy which allowed building of new wharves, installation of new water tanks, building new weaving houses and sealing almost every roads in his constituency with tar. The policy was mostly restricted only to Tu’i’onetoa and his Cabinet Ministers’ electorates.

    Critics believed this policy was one of the many failures of Tu’i’onetoa to uphold fairness in the way he distributed the country’s wealth and opportunities.

    Many believed he should not be re-elected Prime Minister given his dodgy record in the past two years he has been leading the country. He has been accused of repeatedly lying to the public and abusing female journalists.

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    He has been the subject of continuing criticism over apparent cronyism in the awarding of road building contracts and his repeated refusal for months to deal with convicted criminal and Cabinet Member ‘Akosita Lavulavu.

    Tu’i’onetoa was criticised heavily for his attempts to operate the government like a Christian church, especially his failed national fasting campaign to protect Tonga from Covid. Despite his national prayer services, and fasting the kingdom reported its first coronavirus infection last month after a passenger travelling from New Zealand tested positive. The media later revealed he and his Cabinet ministers’ spouses were paid from the people’s tax money when they went on tour to the outer islands as part of the fasting campaign.

    Perfect choice

    Critics believe Sovaleni is the perfect choice to replace Tu’i’onetoa given the fact he was the MP with the highest number of votes compared to the rest of the MPs. He received 84 percent of his constituency’s total votes.

    Veteran publisher and journalist Kalafi Moala told Kaniva News he believed Sovaleni’s high vote tally put him in the perfect position to be Tonga’s new Prime Minister.

    “To me it is a simple issue of numbers, plus he has a much better record than Tu’i’onetoa or any of the potential PM candidates,” Moala said.

    “Some of the nobles are still trying to play politics, talking to both sides. I think, though, that in the end they will support whoever has the greatest number of People’s Reps support”.

    When asked about the potential candidates Moala said: “There are two candidates – Siaosi Sovaleni and Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa”.

    “Apparently there are five (which includes Tu’i’onetoa) who have indicated their support for him.

    “There are 11 who have indicated their support for Sovaleni, without any horse-trading.

    “Based on the general mood here and public conversations going on, Sovaleni seems to be the “preferred choice”.

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