10 things you need to know about the Tongan election

Tongan art work


While rugby league and the prospect of a Tongan team taking the World Cup is currently gripping Tongans around the world, in the kingdom there is an election to be won tomorrow.

Massey University Pasifika director associate Professor Malakai Kolamatangi will be an observer at the election and says this is what you need to know ahead of the vote:

  • The election is a year early after King George Tupou VI, for the first time in history, dismissed the country's once popular but controversial Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva and dissolved parliament in August, calling for a fresh election.
  •  The Government was dissolved on the advice of the Speaker of the House Lord Tu'ivakano and the Tongan Privy Council. It follows a series of government controversies that saw the dismissal of three cabinet ministers, including one convicted of bribery, the creation of a golf course at the Popua wetland and heritage area, a decision to part privatise the national broadcaster and the decision to pull out of hosting the Pacific Games.
  • This is the third time Tongans have gone to the polls since democratic reforms were introduced in 2010. Tonga is the only constitutional monarchy in the Pacific.
  • Voters get to vote for 17 of the 26 Legislative Assembly of Tonga seats. Nine seats are held by members of the nobility who elect representatives amongst themselves and the Prime Minister can choose to appoint up to four people non-elected people to his cabinet.
  • Former New Zealand cabinet minister and speaker of the house Margaret Wilson is leading the first ever Commonwealth Observer team to observe the Tongan elections. Professor Koloamatangi was a member of the first team to observe a Tongan election in 2008.
  • Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pohiva was the first commoner to be elected Prime Minister in 2014 and his will be the most hotly contested seat with 11 candidates running.
  • 59,000 people are registered to vote in the election, up 8000 on the last election when voter turnout was 79 per cent.
  • The swiftness of the election has caught out some potential politicians living offshore; to be eligible candidates must have lived in Tonga for three months prior to the election.
  • The country’s only elected woman, MP Akosita Havili Lavulavu, won her seat in a by election in 2016. This election will see 15 women candidates running - the highest number ever.
  • Tonga’s 170 islands are spread over nearly 700,000 square kilometres. Results from the outer islands have to be called in by polling supervisors to the Electoral Commission on the main island Tongatapu. Results are expected by 11pm on election night.

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