Monday, December 13, 2010

[pima.nius] Tonga's next PM could be a Noble says political scientist

10:57 AM |

Tonga's next PM could be a Noble says political scientist

Updated December 13, 2010 18:16:40

The election of Tonga's next prime minister has been delayed from this Friday until next Monday.

Nominations for the post close today, Monday and the names put forward will be sealed in envelopes and kept in a safe in the country's Treasury.

Two camps have emerged - the Democratic Party which won most of the seats elected by the people, and a coalition between the nine Noble MPs and some independent people's representatives.

Tongan political scientist Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, from Canterbury University in New Zealand, describes how the newly elected parliament will go about choosing a prime minister.

Presenter: Bruce Hill
Speaker: Tongan political scientist Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, from Canterbury University in New Zealand

DR KOLOAMATANGI: I think it's a show of hands. The people who are being nominated, they will be known to those who wish to with to nominated. So I suppose there will not be any surprises, because I think the camps are quite committed to the nominees, so I don't think there will be surprises for the camps involved.

HILL: Now there have been two camps that evolved after the election. There is the Democratic Party which people knew about and have been long time campaigners for more democracy in Tonga. But there is a second camp that has now emerged basically centred around the nine nobles. They claim to have the support of the five non-Democratic Party peoples representatives, plus they claim to have taken the support of one of the Democratic Party members of parliament themselves. So there is quite a rivalry. Are you surprised by this?

DR KOLOAMATANGI: No, in terms of the three MPs from Vavau, I don't think that there is any surprise surrounding in relation to how they're standing. Obviously Vavau is not a democratic electorate, they have said this all along. They're independent and in fact if anything, they are pro-monarchy and support the chiefs, so that is no surprise at all. What I am surprised at is that it looks like there will be a number of defections from the pro-democracy camp. Suniafili from Eua was kicked out of the Democratic Party so that is no surprise that he is signing with the nobles. The member of parliament from Niua.....is a surprise. I thought that he was a committed pro-democracy supporter. I think the real surprise will come if perhaps one of the leading pro-democracy MPs defect to the noble side, that is going to be a big surprise I think.

HILL: The whole purpose of these elections was to make Tonga more democratic, but many people seem to be suggesting that if as it seems at the moment it is possible, a noble becomes prime minister and this noble-dominated faction perhaps becomes government. Somehow that makes the results of the election illegitimate. The Democratic Party won 12 of the 17 seats elected by the people and yet they could wind up not necessarily winning?

DR KOLOAMATANGI: Yes, that's right. Again this is something there was always a problem since the report from the constitution and electoral reform commission came out when the nobles were given a quota in parliament. Most of the pro-democracy supporters have always said there should not be noble seats in parliament. If nobles want to stand, they should stand like anyone else and be elected on the general franchise. So that has been problematic. What I have heard is the nobles when they had their election were clearly given a directive not to offer themselves as ministers or prime minister.

HILL: Directed by whom?

DR KOLOAMATANGI: I was told he was talking about the thing himself. They told him to stay out of this government. But if they were nominated by the peoples representative, then that would be different. So my understanding is the nobles did not offer themselves or put themselves forward for ministerial or prime ministerial consideration, that the nominations have actually come from these MPs.

HILL: But if a noble-dominated group does become the government, would that not anger a lot of the people who voted for the peoples reps for the Democratic Party?

DR KOLOAMATANGI: Sure, I think so. I mean people have every right to express their opinion, but that's the national democracy. There was always going to be this possibility and the people were afraid of that, they should have made it known to the government before the recommendations from the commission were adopted. So this is what you get. This is one of the possibilities that could have occurred and now we are facing the possibilities. So what I am afraid of course is of course that people don't understand what's happened and that the pro-democracy or they might take the law into their own hands if it were and that would be a real problem I think.

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