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Lord Tu'ivakano chosen as Tonga's new prime minister

Noble Tu'ivakano (left) as the Minister for Sports - now the new PM. Photo: Oceania Football

Alex Perrottet

21 December, 2010

The contest for Prime Minister of Tonga is over, with Lord Tu’ivakano being elected by a slim margin in a secret ballot today.

The vote, from among the Parliament made up of the elected People’s Representatives and nobles, was 14 in favour of Lord Tu’ivakano and 12 for ‘Akilisi Pohiva, leader of the PTOA, or the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands.

Pohiva, a former broadcaster and human rights and democracy activist, was voted into Parliament representing Tongatapu, where his party won nine out of the possible 10 seats in last month’s historic election.

The Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands won 14 out of the 17 seats for commoner citizens in the November 27 election, and yesterday the party’s members were calling for a People’s Representative to be elected from the Parliament as Tonga’s new Prime Minister.

Pohiva’s supporters argued that it would be fitting that the leader of the most popular party be chosen to lead the country, to truly reflect the democratic nature of the election.

However, supporters of Lord Tu’ivakano argued that an independent Prime Minister, not aligned with the now dominant Democratic Party of Friendly Islands, would be best for Tonga.

They argued for unity and that an ideal leader would be someone not influenced by a dominant party’s agenda.

Lord Tu'ivakano has held his noble’s title since 1986 and has been a noble’s representative in Parliament since 1996. He is a former speaker of the Legislative Assembly and most recently was the Minister of Training, Education, Youth and Sports.

Despite Pohiva having the weight of the democratic election in his favour, he had earlier campaigned for a cabinet of national unity, as a bid for an effective government, comprised of party representatives, independents and nobles.

While Tonga is taking some major steps towards a more democratic system, the ideal of governmental unity is far from the reality. Since the landslide election in favour of the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands, the noble’s representatives mobilised to put forward a single candidate to be nominated against Pohiva.

With all the nobles and just enough independent representatives, Lord Tu’ivakano secured just one vote above the 50 percent majority required to become Prime Minister.

How the new government is shaped is yet to be seen, but Lord Tu’ivakano is expected to name the new ministry in the new year.

PM confirms cabinet selection - Taimi Online

About the author

PMC profile photograph

Alex Perrottet

PMW contributing editor 2011-2012

Alex Perrottet is a journalist who has completed a Masters degree and Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies student at AUT University.


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