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 might-have-beens: A new voting system.

Tongans could have gone to the last three elections under a voting system the 2009 Constitutional and Electoral Commission described as “one of the fairest systems devised.”

The Commission recommended the kingdom change to a single transferable voting system.

“We are satisfied that it will give Tonga the fairest results,” the CEC’s report said.

Instead, Tonga has continued to use a variation of the first past the post system.

Under the original voting system, Tonga had a mixed multi- and single- seat first past the vote system,  with single-seat districts such as each of the Niuas and ‘Eua and districts with two or more seats in districts such as Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Vava’u.

Voters were required merely to indicate which candidate(s) on the ballot paper list they favoured, and in the block districts, they had as many choices as there were seats in the district. The candidates with the most votes won.

Critics have pointed out that where several candidates are standing for election in one constituency under a first past the post system, it could mean that more voters actually cast their ballot for other candidates than the winner receives.

As an example, presume that 100 people voted in an election and that Candidate A won because she had 40 votes, whereas candidates B and C, who attracted 30 votes each, lost. In effect, this meant Candidate A was somebody the majority of voters didn’t want.

Under the single transferable vote system a candidate must meet a set quota of votes to win outright. Voters are allowed to select second choices, so if a candidate does not meet the quota, then votes are recounted and redistributed.

Effectively, it allows voters to indicate that they want a candidate to be elected, but if they don’t win, then they can indicate that their second preference would be another candidate.

This system means that the successful candidate is actually acceptable to a greater proportion of the voters than somebody who won under the first past the post system.

Political scientists have described the single transferable vote system as also extremely suitable for systems where voting districts might have more than one representative, such as existed in Tonga.

According to the CEC, in systems where political parties operate, the single transferable voting system encourages parties to co-operate by exchanging voter preferences. This means that they agree to tell their party supporters to select the candidate from the other party as their second choice.

In Tonga, where voters elect individuals rather than party members, candidates could make the same arrangements.

According to the CEC, under the single transferable voting system, voters could influence the composition of post-election coalitions.

The single transferable voting system is used in Australia, some local authorities in New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and some parts of Europe.

Instead of adopting the CEC’s recommendation, the Cabinet of the time, adopted a first past the post system under which all multi-member districts were sub-divided to become single-seat districts.

Tonga’s 17 constituencies have very small populations, with electorates in the outer islands have far fewer people than those on Tongatapu.

Tongatapu 3 had about 4000 people eligible to vote at the last election. The smallest electorate, Ongo Niua, had about 700.

For more information 

Tonga: Constitution and politics

Political and constitutional reform opens the door: The kingdom of Tonga’s path to democracy


  1. Hili ha ta’u ‘e valu hono fakahū ki Fale Alea’ kuo toe vakai’i ‘e he Ongoongo ‘a e Kaniva’ e Līpooti 2009 ‘a e Komisoni ki he Konisitūtone’ mo e Fili Fale Alea’ mo sio ki he ngaahi me’a na’e mei malava faingamālie ke fakahoko he kuohili’ ka kuo ‘ikai toe lava.

    Ko e komisoni ‘eni na’e fokotu’u ‘e he Fakataha Tokoni’ ke nau fokotu’utu’u mai ‘a e ngaahi fakalelei ki he konisitūtone ‘a Tonga’ ke kamata’aki ‘a e liliu ‘i he 2010. Me’apango ne ‘ikai tali ia kae ‘ai pe ‘e he pule’anga ia ‘o e ‘aho ko ia’ ‘a ‘enau fokotu’utu’u pe ‘a kinautolu.

    Ne mei lava ke fili ‘a e kakai Tonga’ ‘i ha founga fili ne fakamatala’i ‘e he Komisoni ki he Konisitūtone’ mo e Fili Fale Alea’ ‘o pehē ko e taha ia ‘o e ngaahi founga fili lelei taha kuo lava ‘o fa’u’.

    Na’e hanga ‘e he Komisoni’ ‘o poupou’i ke liliu e founga fili ‘a Tonga’ ki he founga ko e lava ke ‘ave lau e mo fakakau mai ha fili fika ua pe single transferrable voting system (tvs)
    “’Oku mau ongo’i fiemālie ‘e ‘oange ‘e he founga’ ni ki Tonga ha ngaahi ola ko e taau taha’ ia,” ko e lau ia ‘a e līpōti’.

    Ka na’e tuku ia kae kei hoko atu pe ‘a Tonga ia ‘o faka’aonga’i e founga fili ma’u ‘e he tokotaha ko ē ‘oku tokolahi taha e fili ki ai pe first past the post.

    ‘I he founga fili motu’a’ na’e fio ai e sea ‘e taha mo e sea lahi ange ki he vāhenga ‘i he founga fili ke ma’u ‘e he tokotaha kanititeiti na’e fili ki ai ‘a e toko lahi taha’, fakatātā ki he ongo Niua’ mo ‘Eua, ‘oku’ na taki taha pe sea ka e ua mo lahi ange ‘a Tongatapu, Ha’apai mo Vava’u.

    Ka ‘oku pehē ‘e he kau fakaanga’, ko e founga ko ‘eni’ ‘a ia ‘oku kanititeiti ai ha ni’ihi mei he vāhenga’, ‘i he fili ke ikuna ‘a e kanititeiti ‘oku’ ne ma’u e vouti lahi taha’, ‘e lava ke ‘uhinga ia ‘oku tokolahi ange e fili ia ki he kau kanitieiti na’e too’ he kanititeiti na’a’ ne ma’u ‘a e fili’.

    Fakatātā ki heni, tau pehē na’e vouti ha kakai ‘e toko 100 ‘i ha fili pea ‘ikuna ia ‘e kanititeiti A ‘aki e
    vouti ‘e 40, pea ko B leva mo C ne na taki 30 kinaua he’ena ulungia’. Ko hono mo’oni’ ‘oku ‘uhinga ‘eni ia na’e ‘ikai fiema’u ‘e he tokolahi taha’ ia ‘a kanititeiti A he ‘oku toko 60 e kau fili ia ki he ongo kanititeiti ne ulungia ka e 40 pe ‘a kanititeiti A ia.

    Ko e founga fili leva ko ē single transferrable vote system (tvs) ‘a ē ne fokotu’u mai ‘e he līpooti ‘a e Komisoni’ kuopau ke ikuna’i ‘e he taha kaniteiti ia ‘a e fo’i vouti pau pe kuota ka e lava ke ikuna. ‘Oku faka’atā leva ‘a e kau vouta’ ke toe ‘ai mo ha’anau fili fika ua, ‘a ia kapau leva ‘e ‘ikai ikuna ‘e ha kanititeiti ‘a e kuota’ ‘e toe lau leva ‘a e fili ‘o toe vahevahe ‘a e ola’.

    Ko e me’a leva ‘e hoko heni’, ‘oku faka’atā ‘e he founga’ ni ‘a e kau vouta’ ke nau fakamahino ‘oku ‘i ai ‘a e kanititeiti ‘oku nau fiema’u, pea kapau ‘e ‘ikai ke ikuna ia pea lau leva enau kanititeiti fika ua.

    ‘Oku ‘uhinga leva ‘a e founga fili ko ‘eni’ ko e kanitieti ko ē ‘oku ikuna’ ‘oku tali ia ‘e he kau fili tokolahi ange ‘o kinautolu na’e vouti’.

    Na’e fakamatala’i ‘e he kau saienitisi politikale’ ‘a e founga fili stv ‘oku fu’u mātu’aki fe’unga ia mo Tonga ‘a ia ‘oku tokolahi ai ‘a e kau fakafofonga mei he ngaahi vāhenga’.

    Fakatatau ki he Komisoni’ ko e sistemi ko ē ‘e fakalele fakapāti’, ‘e hanga ‘e tvs ‘o fakalotolahia e fengāue’aki ‘a e ngaahi pāti’ ‘aki ‘enau fakafetongi’aki e loto e taha vouta’. ‘Oku ‘uhinga ‘eni ‘oku nau loto ke tala ki he’enau kau poupou’ ke nau fili enau kanititeiti fika ua’ mei he ngaahi paati kehe’.

    ‘I Tonga’ leva, ‘a ia ‘oku fili fakataautaha pe kau kaniteiti’ ‘o ‘ikai ke nau fili fakapāti’ te nau fai pe ‘a e alea tatau.

    ‘Oku ngāue’aki ‘a e founga stv ia ‘i ‘Aositelēlia, mo e ngaahi sino lōkolo ‘i Nu’u Sila, ko e Lepapilika ‘o ‘Ailani’, ‘Ailani Noate mo e ngaahi feitu’u kehekehe ‘o ‘Iulope.

    Kaekehe na’e ‘ikai tali ‘e he kapineti ia ‘o e 2009 e fokotu’u atu ‘o e founga fili ko ‘eni’, ka nau tali ‘a e founga tatau pe ia mei mu’a’ ‘a e fili ke ikuna ‘a e kanititeiti ‘e fili ki ai ‘a e tokolahi taha’ ‘a ia ‘oku toe tofitofi hifo ai ‘a e ngaahi vāhenga’ ke sea ‘e taha mei he vāhenga.