Tonga’s election was deemed to have been conducted professionally and peacefully by the Commonwealth observer group’s Chair, Margaret Wilson
Tonga’s election was deemed to have been conducted professionally and peacefully by the Commonwealth observer group’s Chair, Margaret Wilson.
The former New Zealand Cabinet Minister led the Commonwealth team to observe Tongan elections for the first time, following a formal invitation from the country’s government.
The Commonwealth country went to the polls on November 16, 2017, a year earlier than scheduled, after King Tupu VI invoked Clause 38 of the Constitution to dissolve parliament in September, 2017.
Prime Minister Akilisi Pohiva won the election with 14 Democratic candidates winning seats, including two women.
Margaret Wilson said that the election had been conducted fairly and thoroughly by officials and reflected citizens’ wishes.
She also encouraged Pohiva’s government to continue strengthening democratic processes and refining constitutional issues.
The Chair further congratulated female parliamentarians Losaline Ma’asi and Akosita Lavulavu on their election, saying the results were significant in forming the start of greater female representation in the country’s politics.
Only eight women have sat in Tonga’s parliament, with five elected, since 1951.
A final report on the electoral process will be submitted by the group to the Commonwealth Secretary-General, who will distribute the findings to the Tongan government, the Tongan Electoral Commission, Speaker of Parliament, relevant civil society organisations and finally will be made public to governments and citizens of the Commonwealth.
Wilson said: “I think it does show progress and the level was much more professional and sophisticated and I think at the next election you will certainly see further campaigns from women candidates and hopefully they will produce more women being elected.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “These elections are crucial for the people of Tonga as it strengthens the democratic process in the Kingdom… with the observers from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat [in] supporting Tonga’s democracy, national election and sharing best practice.”
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