25 Nov 2010

Veteran pro-democracy campaigner has major success in historic Tonga elections

9:39 pm on 25 November 2010

The first results from Tonga's historic elections show there has been huge support for the party led by the veteran pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva.

Mr Pohiva's Friendly Islands Democratic Party has taken eight of the ten seats on the main island Tongatapu and at least one of the outer island seats.

Many of the victories were by substantial margins.

Mr Pohiva has been a People's Representative for 24 years and among the newcomers joining him and another incumbent, Isileli Pulu, will be broadcaster Sangster Saulala, prominent businessman Semisi Sika and former prison superintendent, Semisi Tapueluelu.

Another is Dr Sitiveni Halapua, who had a big victory over former police minister Clive Edwards in Tongatapu Number 3.

Dr Halapua had returned to Tonga after being away from the country for much of the past 23 years but he had maintained involvement in the push for democracy and our correspondent, Richard Pamatatau, says the people knew him.

"People have been talking about Sitiveni Halapua as a man who's a thinker, as a man who's dedicated to Tonga and somebody who has the intellectual heft which is what the country is going to need, not only for the new government to be formed but for it to go some way to solving the economic problems that it has, some of the social problems as it moves forward."

Tonga's nobles say they want the country's new prime minister to come from the people's representatives.

The nine nobles chosen in today's parallel election are the Honourables Tu'i Afitu, Fusitu'a, Fakafonua, Ma'afu, Tu'i Vakano, Tu'i Ha'ateiho, Lasike, Vaea and Tu'i Lakepa.

Richard Pamatatau says the nobles revealed it is the King's wish that a commoner become the next prime minister and they have to make that happen.

They all think that unless the elected representatives all work well together there is not a lot of hope for Tonga and so the messaging from them is about this co-operation and a consensus approach to the political system.