COMMENTARY: Ardern’s reshuffle shows Tonga needs second reform to bring in party-based Parliament

COMMENTARY: Jacinda Ardern’s re-shuffling of her Cabinet on Monday shows just how much Tonga needs a party system.

Hon Hu’akavameiliku

Ardern has been able to move ministers round without causing by-elections or any interruptions to the House, with Ministers working smoothly within the party system to facilitate the transitions that are underway.

With all members elected to the house, this is possible.

It is not something that would necessarily be possible or easy to do in a house where there are mixed representatives for Noble and commoners.

And the rules for moving ministers on are much more clear cut.

It is difficult to think of Ardern being unwilling to move somebody she thought was not doing their job because  she was worried about upsetting particular groups or factions.

It is equally unlikely that she would be allowed to indulge in the kind of shenanigans that have bedevilled Tonga’s Parliament as two successive Prime Ministers have refused to take action against MPs convicted in the Supreme Court.


Her actions could be seen as largely a manouvre to convince the electorate that she can still lead after strong criticisms from the Oppositions of Labour’s outgoing MPs.

Ardern has been quite ruthless when necessary and has sacked ministers when they have failed in their roles, acted improperly or provided too easy a target for the opposition.

On Monday’s reshuffle she has moved Poto Williams who had proven a liability over the recent spate of gang-related shootings.

Prime Minister Ardern is reacting to an active and critical Opposition that is closely engaged in politics, despite not being in government.   In Tonga, we cannot see the Opposition playing any such role or doing their duty as an alert and active opposition, even amidst the public outcry against the PM Hu’akavameiliku and his government.

PM Jacinda Ardern. Photo/ Getty Image 2020

Too often it seems that they are not the united and effective opposition they were under the late ‘Akilisi Pohiva. Instead of being a united and effective political party, too often they look like a mess of squabbling factions.

We recently wrote about the advantage of having the party systems and asked why Tonga missed the opportunity to introduce it during the 2010 reforms that heralded the start of the democratic reform.

We also said that if Tonga did not institute a second reform to reflect Peter Pursglove’s 2014 report on the Constitution the political problems in the kingdom would drag on and could go from worse to worse.

Tonga urgently needs to follow Pursglove’s 2014 report. The Minister of Agriculture died in Auckland last week while the minister of Fisheries is currently here as well for medical treatment. PM Hu’akavameiliku must be struggling with Tonga’s political situation and it is disappointing that he has no choice, but to do what he can  on his own to save his government.

It is time for Tonga to institute a second political reformation, listen to Pursglove’s report and introduce a House fully elected along party lines with the Prime Minister being the person leading the party with the most seats.

This would be good for House, the kingdom and Tonga’s long-suffering people.


  1. In the case of Tonga … Ministers should not be members of the Parliament … ministers should be selected from an open field of applications from the public …


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