Desperate move to reduce candidate numbers in attempt to unseat ‘Akilisi Pōhiva unlawful, Fonua says

A desperate attempt by a group of critics in Tongatapu 1 to unseat the electorate’s current MP, ‘Akilisi Pōhiva was unlawful, Ana Bing Fonua, the candidate number six at the constituency, has claimed.

Fonua said that according to Section 9A of the Electoral Act, the official date for any candidate to withdraw their candidature ended on the first week of October, a week from nomination day.

She said she doubted the Election Office would allow any candidates to withdraw  at this stage.

Fonua, who was CEO of the Ministry of Internal Affairs before quitting to run for Parliament, said she was unaware of the identity of the group.

Kakalu ‘o Tonga newspaper has identified the group as being led by publisher Kalafi Moala, former Police Inspector Polutele Tu’ihalamaka, Dr. Taniela Palu, Sisi’uno Helu and others.

The paper claimed they feared Hon. Pōhiva would still win the Tongatapu 1 seat.

Meeting

It is understood the group has met with some of the Tongatapu 1 candidates and discussed having some of them voluntarily withdraw to leave only two or one candidate to contest against Pōhiva.

The group appears to believe that having 11 candidates for the seat would give Hon. Pōhiva a greater chance because the voters would spread their votes among the rest of the candidates, based on their blood and political ties.

In the 2014 general election, 1482 voters voted for Hon. Pōhiva while 1287 spread their votes among the other seven candidates.

It is understood the group conducted several meetings with some of the candidates this week.

“In terms of the intention to reduce the number of candidates for Tongatapu 1, my simple comment is that candidates and their campaign advisers/supporters should first understand and familiarise themselves with the Electoral Act,” Fonua said.

“The question is, are these candidates choosing to non-comply with the Electoral Act? How confident are they that the Tonga Electoral Commission will accept the withdrawal, which I doubt they would?

Fonua said she had not met with any of the other candidates regarding the proposal to reduce their number.

Campaigns

“It is fair to assume that the hesitation is because candidates either have not done enough for the nation and constituency in the last three years, or their policies are not convincing enough for the voters, or the votes have in fact split, but Hon. Prime Minister’s supporters still remain strong,” she said.

“Either way, candidates should work extra hard in their campaign in the remaining weeks.

“In regards to my campaign, we had planned to stall a little to ensure we were within budget and that the impact timing was closer to polling day, otherwise we would be wasting resources. Hopefully things will progress smoothly as planned.”

The group reportedly said three contesters in the electorate who were doing well in their campaigns were Dr. Ofo Niumeitolu, Netatua Prescott and Mōsese Manuofetoa.

Meanwhile an unsubstantiated election poll which circulated online since last week using the word Fale Alea (Parliament) forecast Hon. Pohiva would win the Tongatapu 1 seat.

The main points             

  • A desperate attempt by a group of critics in Tongatapu 1 to unseat the electorate’s current MP, ‘Akilisi Pohiva was unlawful, Ana Bing Fonua, the candidate number 6 at the constituency, has claimed.
  • Fonua said that according to Section 9A of the Electoral Act, the official date for any candidate to withdraw their candidature ended on the first week of October, a week from nomination day.
  • She said she doubted the Election Office would allow any candidates to withdraw at this stage.
  • Fonua, who was CEO of the Ministry of Internal Affairs before quitting to run for Parliament, said she was unaware of the identity of the group.

For more information

Tonga Electoral Commission

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