26 Nov 2010

Tonga's Pohiva attributes election success to education

4:28 pm on 26 November 2010

The leader of the party which dominated yesterday's election in Tonga puts its success down to being able to educate the people about the merits of democracy.

The Friendly Islands Democratic Party has 13 of the 26 seats in the new assembly and is negotiating with independents to create a coalition government.

Its leader, veteran pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva, says through informal education they were able to persuade the people that democracy would guarantee their rights and give them a chance to participate in government.

"We have been successful in providing a platform which gave the people a meaningful perspective and translation of the principles of democracy. We have been successful in providing informal education which gave our people the opportunity to truly participate in running our government."

There's a call for the incoming Tonga government to appoint women to cabinet.

This comes after none of the 11 women candidates succeeded in yesterday's election, with most of them getting little support.

The new prime minister will have the right to add up to four ministers from outside the assembly.

The Tonga Women's and Children's Crisis Centre's Ofa ki-levuka Guttenbeil Likiliki says it's good to welcome a new government under new terms but the absence of women in the parliament is unfortunate.

She says this lack of representation could be addressed by adding women to cabinet.

There are a few of us who are thinking strategically. There is still hope and that little bit of hope is through, whoever the prime minister is, he does have an opportunity to appoint a female minister. He's got an option of appointing four ministers from outside of parliament, so there is still a slim chance of getting if not one but two females into ministerial posts and that is what we are holding onto now.

The Friendly Islands Democratic Party has said it's opposed to bringing in unelected MPs.

A Canterbury University political scientist observing the Tonga election says there was no surprise in the big success by the Friendly Islands Democratic Party.

While some surveys and pundits predicted the party would have just marginal success, Dr Malakai Koloamatangi says it was always in the box seat to do well.

If you look at the way that Akilisi and his team campaigned, and remember not only up to the election period, they have been campaigning for some 20 years now as part of their normal operation. They have got the Kele'a newspaper, they have got regular TV and radio slots.