22 Apr 2010

Tonga PM says his concessions made democratic reform possible

3:36 pm on 22 April 2010

The Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele, says his government made concessions on the political reforms this week to ensure general elections go ahead in November.

On Tuesday the final key legislative changes were made to allow for the majority of the assembly to be elected by the people for the first time.

Don Wiseman has more:

"The last sticking point had been the boundaries for the 17 constituencies and Cabinet was opposed to the recommendations of the Government-appointed Boundaries Commission. Dr Sevele says they felt their plan, to combine some outer islands with the electorates on Tongatapu and Vava'u, was the best of the options. But their submission was withdrawn before being debated and with the aid of the nobles, the pro-democracy MPs succeeded in having the Commission's preferred option accepted. This allowed for the traditional island boundaries to be retained. Dr Sevele says the collaboration between the nobles and the People's Representatives was a classic example of democracy at work. In a statement Dr Sevele says the country needs to acknowledge the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV and his successor, King George Tupou V, for having ceded executive authority to a democratically elected Parliament and Government."

Meanwhile, Tongan voters will be required to have identification cards for the elections.

Our correspondent, Mateni Tapueluelu reports that in the King's speech closing the current session of Parliament mention was made of a number changes that would be necessary ahead of the vote.

He mentioned that there would have to be work done still to ensure that democratic elections will take place smoothly and he mentioned that there will now be a national identification for voters, that they will use now in voting, to make sure one person, one vote.

Mateni Tapueluelu.

It's expected that Tongans living overseas will have the right to vote as long as they've got the requisite ID cards.