Wednesday, November 10, 2010

[pima.nius] Economy main concern for Tongan voters

10:29 AM |

Economy main concern for Tongan voters

Updated November 10, 2010 17:47:15

Tongan voters are mainly concerned about the country's economy, according to a public opinion poll which has just been published.

The poll was commissioned by the Media Council of Tonga, and involved a New Zealand firm questioning several hundred people on the main island of Tongatapu.

Tongans go to the polls to elect a new parliament later this month, in which for the first time ever, most MPs will be elected by the people.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Chairman of the Media Council of Tonga, Kalafi Moala

MOALA: It's the economy, it is by well being economically, thats what the people are saying, that is the thing that matters most to us. We've been doing a lot of talk about politics and reform that we are going into is a political reform and people are saying we're very concerned about what we feed ourselves with, our future, how much we get paid, whether we can have the ability to put our kids to school, so economy, that is definitely the priority and the most concern of the people.

HILL: Now previously, politics in Tonga has been dominated by conflict within the pro-democracy movement and supporters of the monarchy about whether the country should be a democracy. For the first time ever, people are going to the polls to elect a majority of the members of parliament. They will be directly elected by the people. So is this election different do you think from the previous election, where it's all been about are we going to have democracy, now they have got more or less democracy, what are they going to do with it?

MOALA: Well, it's going to be so different. One of the key differences not so much to me the fact that they are going to be voting for their first democratic vote, but the key difference here is that we have got smaller constituencies. I mean the whole of Tonga is divided up into 17 [electorates] and it's the people themselves from each constituency that are saying yeah, we're going to send in our representative - one, and in the sense the people have a sense of ownership. We're going to send in our representative. We're playing a key role in selecting who will represent us to parliament and in a second tier of that is really we're selecting a person that could be any government, so in other words they are actually selecting a government. So this is the kind of mood the people are feeling right now. I think they have already taken it for granted. We live in a democracy, we have freedom now to really and I think it is the completion of our freedom is that we are now at the very final thing that we have is to be able now to elect those who have a say and those that are going to govern us.

HILL: There was another element in this public opinion poll which I felt was quite interesting. I would like to get your comments on it as well as people interested in growing the economy and creating jobs, which is far and away the main point for them. Reducing crime was priority number two, but priority number three was women's issues and it wasn't just women that said that, a lot of men said women's issues were important. Why is that?

MOALA: I think I should credit those there are a number of women activists organisations that have been preaching the message of women issues over the past five, six years in particular. I think the message is getting home. Let's not take for granted that here in Tonga we have deep respect for women and we have a special place for women, but let's really look at the welfare of women and I think again it is not so much a right thing as much as an economic thing and the concern for the family. There is the feeling that if we can deal with women issues, it will contribute substantially to really building the family.

HILL: One of the questions was a standard question which was asked in public opinion polls in all countries in the world which is do you think the country is generally heading in the right direction or the wrong direction at the moment - forty one per cent of respondents said it is heading in the right direction, 26 per cent said wrong, 33 per cent were unsure. That's a net positive rating of 15 per cent which is pretty strong.

MOALA: Yes, I think that is a real reflection of the general mood in this country. There are people who are very excited, we're moving the whole new era, excited about the fact that they have the power to be able to select their own government. They feel that this is a major area in which we're moving in the right direction. Also even with the economy. People are feeling that we are trying the correct things and we are generally heading the right direction.

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pacific islands media association
pima.nius@gmail.com
aotearoa, new zealand
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