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Tongan elections: Independent power brokers may hold key to choice of PM

'Akilisi Pohiva

Pro-democracy group leader 'Akilisi Pohiva: His Tongan leadership prospects may depend on the independents. Photo: TNews

Pacific Scoop:
Analysis – By Pesi Fonua in Nuku’alofa

We can say that “a battle is over but the war has started” and this  is probably the best way to describe the outcome of the first round of Tonga’s Parliamentary Election yesterday.

Tongans are now preparing for the second round of voting by the new members of Parliament who are tasked with putting a new government in place within the next 28 days.

The 26 new members of Parliament who were elected yesterday are in search of a Prime Minister who will have to appoint his cabinet from the elected MPs. He may also appoint up to four cabinet ministers to come into Parliament.

The result of yesterday’s election has enabled the people, through the Paati Temokalati ‘a e ‘Otu Motu ‘Anga’ofa, a pro-democracy political party led by ‘Akilisi Pohiva, to present a strong united front with 12 members – enough to form a government headed by a prime minister and 11 cabinet ministers.

Own agendas
However, the second round is not quite that simple. Other elected members of the House, including nine Nobles’ Representatives and five independent People’s Representatives, may well have their own agendas.

From the start of their election campaign, the Paati Temokalati ‘a e ‘Otu Motu ‘Anga’ofa  stated it wanted ‘Akilisi Pohiva to be Prime Minister, with a line-up of PRs who appeared to be its candidates for ministerial positions. But with 14 other members in the House, the selection of a Prime Minister could become a tricky political exercise.

Five independents
It now appears that the five independent PRs could become the power brokers and whichever side they lean to could form the next government.

The fact that the five Independent PRs are of ministerial quality could also strengthen their bargaining positions. They include all three Vava’u PRs: Samiu Vaipulu, the current Minister of Justice in what is now a caretaker government; and likewise, Lisiate ‘Akolo, the Minister for Labour, Commerce and Industries; and Dr Viliami Latu, who was the Chief Clerk of the House.

It might also happen that now that they have their parliamentary incomes secured for the next four years, the 26 members may do a bit of soul searching outside of their apparent camps and conscientiously try to find one person among them whom they think might have the integrity, leadership and statesmanlike qualities to make a coherent Prime Minister – and then give him the freedom to pick a cabinet.

The 26 members of Parliament elected on November 25 are:

The 17 People’s Representatives:
The Paati Temokalati ‘a e ‘Otu Motu ‘Anga’ofa members:
1. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, returned Tongatapu People’s Representative, member for 23 years
2. Dr Sitiveni Halapua, an academic who was a member of the Electoral and Political Reform Commission
3. ‘Isileli Pulu, returned Tongatapu People’s Representative
4. Semisi Sika, a Tongatapu businessman who runs a takeaway shop and catering firm
5. Sangstar Saulala, a former broadcaster, a former officer of the Tonga Rugby Union
6. Kaveinga Fa’anunu, a former manager of a government hardware shop
7. Siosifa Tu’utafaiva, a criminal lawyer
8. Sione Taione, a clerk in the courts
9. Semisi Tapueluelu, a former Prisons Superintendent
10. ‘Uliti Uata, returned Ha’apai People’s Representative
11. Mo’ale Finau from Ha’apai
12. Sosefo Fea’omoeata Vakata, from the Niuas, a former civil servant

The five Independent People’s Representatives are:
1. Samiu Vaipulu, Minister of Justice
2. Lisiate ‘Akolo, Minister of Labour, Commerce and Industries
3. Dr Viliami Latu, Chief Clerk of the House
4. ‘Aisake Eke, Secretary of Finance
5. Sunia Fili, returned People’s Representative for ‘Eua

The nine Nobles’ Representatives are:
1. Tu’ivakano, Minister for Training Youth and Sports and a former Speaker of the House
2. Ma’afu, Minister of Environment
3. Vaea, Tonga Traditions Committee caretaker, and a new Noble’s Representative
4. Lasike, a returned Noble’s Representative
5. Tu’iha’ateiho, a returned Noble’s Representative
6. Fakafanua, a returned Noble’s Representative
7. Tu’ilakepa, the former Speaker of the House
8. Tu’i’afitu, a new Noble’s Representative
9. Fusitu’a, a Noble’s Representative returned after an absence

Pesi Fonua is editor and publisher of Matangi Tonga. Read his editorial here.

1 comment:

  1. John Perkins, 15. December 2010, 10:22

    Where is Sione Tupouniua, one of the favorites?