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169 polling stations planned for Tonga’s ‘democracy’ election

Tongan schoolgirls: Voting for their future. Photo: Matangi Tonga

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Matangi Tonga in Nuku’alofa

A total of 169 polling stations will be set up throughout Tonga’s 17 constituencies for next week’s parliamentary election when 42,067 registered Tongan voters will go to the polls to choose their 17 People’s Representatives.

The polling stations for the election – billed as heralding in a new era of democracy – will be supervised by about 500 workers, says Supervisor of Elections Pita Vuki.

He said each polling station would have a Returning Officer with at least two assistants, but in some stations the returning officer could have as many as eight assistants, and most of them would be civil servants.

Polling stations will be opened for voting from 9am to 4pm on Thursday, November 25.

Pita anticipated that the results would start being announced on Radio Tonga  by 9 pm on election night. The successful candidate in a constituency will be the one with the highest number of votes in a voting, a voting system known as “first past the post”.

17 People’s seats
A total of 146 candidates are competing for the 17 People’s Representatives’ seats. In Tongatapu, 109 candidates are running for the 10 seats. In ‘Eua, three candidates are running for the one seat. In Vava’u, there are 18 candidates for three seats. In Ha’apai, 13 candidates will be contesting two seats, and in the Niuas there are three candidates for one seat.

In addition to the electoral officers, Police Commissioner Chris Kelley announced last week that there would be police officers in every polling station.

National identity card
The procedure for the People’s voting requires that a voter must first show his or her national identity card to officials at the polling station to verify his or her registration to vote at that particular constituency.

Pita Vuki explained that once the right to vote is confirmed, the official would put his or her initial next to the number of a blank ballot paper and then the voter may proceed to the private booth and tick just one name of a candidate on the ballot paper.

He said this is not like previous elections where Tongatapu voters, for example, used to tick the names of three candidates.

“This time all voters throughout Tonga have to tick the name of only one candidate. A voter who ticks more than one will be disqualified,” said Pita.

Once a voter has completed his vote in the secrecy of a polling booth he or she then may place the voting paper into the ballot box before leaving the polling station.

When the polling station closes at 4pm, votes will be counted by the voting officials in the presence of the police officers, then the Returning Officer at each station is required to read out aloud the results for the public to hear the number of votes each candidate received.

The Returning Office then forwards the station result to the Electoral Commission Office in Nuku’alofa where it will be further checked before the official results are compiled and announced on Radio Tonga before 9pm the same evening.

The number of polling stations per constituency, range from four to 22 as follows:

Constituency polling stations
Tongatapu No. 1, five polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 2, four polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 3, six polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 4, six polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 5, nine polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 6, eight polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 7, four polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 8, five polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 9, nine polling stations;
Tongatapu No. 10, nine polling stations;

‘Eua No. 11, 7 polling stations;
Ha’apai No. 12, polling stations;
Ha’apai No. 13, 17 polling stations.

Vava’u No. 14, 22 polling stations;
Vava’u No. 15, 5 polling stations;
Vava’u No. 16, 10 polling stations.

Niuafo’ou and Niuatoputapu No. 17, 11 polling stations.

Final results
Pita clarified that after the result was announced in every station, the results from all of the polling stations in Tongatapu would be transmitted to the Electoral Commission Office in Nuku’alofa.

In the outer islands of ‘Eua and the two Niuas, results should be transmitted to their respective government headquarters; but in Vava’u and Ha’apai results should be transmitted to their respective Governor’s Office, which in turn would forward them on to the Electoral Commission office in Nuku’alofa.

The Supervisor of Elections would then announce the compiled result of the count for each of the 17 constituencies, after adding the result from each polling station.

Nobles
Meanwhile, the 33 nobles of the realm will elect their nine representatives to the Tongan Parliament between 10 am and 12 noon of the same day at their polling stations at the Palace Office, Nuku’alofa; the Governor’s offices in Pangai and Neiafu, and the government offices in ‘Ohonua, ‘Eua; Hihifo, Niuatoputapu and ‘Esia Niuafo’ou.

From the Matangi Tonga web news file.
Tonga preparing for democratic elections