As polls loom, questions remain over what Tongan democracy should look like

With Tonga’s national election just over three weeks away, there is still debate about what democracy in the kingdom should look like.

Massey University academic Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, of the Pasifika Research and Policy Centre, said Tongans still needed to work out what sort of democracy they wanted.

“There is a general perception in Tonga about some sort of idea, a vague idea in many ways, of what a democracy would look like for Tonga,” Dr Koloamatangi told Radio New Zealand this morning.

While concepts like an elected parliament, more power to the people, transparency and accountability were held, there was no consensus on what a Tonga democracy should look like.

Next month’s elections were called after King Tupou VI dissolved Parliament.

In August, Dr Koloamatangi told Radio Australia that while King Tupou VI had the right to dissolve Parliament, his action had undermined Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva.

He said at the time that the motives behind the King’s decision remained a mystery.

Dr Koloamatangi is one of the organisers of what has been billed as a National Dialogue on Democracy in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, tomorrow.

The debate is open to members of the public.

Another forum on the elections was held earlier this month, with speakers including Acting prime Minuister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Lord Vaea and Cardinal Soane Patita Paini Mafi.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand government has New Zealand has donated $US93,000 towards the cost of the elections.

Radio Tonga said the Tongan government asked for financial help.

New Zealand’s High Commissioner in Tonga, Sarah Walsh, said the money would go towards printing of the electoral roll and ballot papers, public awareness, travel and training for election officials and the venue hire for polling stations.

The elections will be held on November 16.

As Kaniva News reported recently, as of September 22, a total of 50,450 voters were registered with the Tongan Electoral Commission, of whom  25,722 (51%) were women and 24,683 (49%) were men.

A total of 15 women will contest the elections on November 16. There are 86 candidates in total, of whom 15 are women.

The main points

  • With Tonga’s national election just over three weeks away, there is still debate about what democracy in the kingdom should look like.
  • Massey University academic Dr Malakai Koloamatangi said Tongans still needed to work out what sort of democracy they wanted.
  • He is one of the organisers of what has been billed as a National Dialogue on Democracy in Tonga’s capital, Nuku’alofa, tomorrow.
  • The debate is open to members of the public.

For more information  

Tongans searching for consensus on democracy – academic

Tongan electoral Commission

NZ gives aid for Tongan election

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