8 Dec 2010

Noble tipped as first elected Tonga PM

4:14 pm on 8 December 2010

There are increasing signs the nobles in the Tonga parliament may form the next government.

The shape of the new government will not be publicly revealed until a secret parliamentary ballot for the prime minister next Monday, but it's been reported the nobles have the numbers.

The state media says the nine nobles have the backing of the original five independents and another who's defected from the Friendly Islands Democratic Party.

That leaves the Akilisi Pohiva led party with just 11 MPs in the 26 seat parliament.

Our correspondent in Tonga, Mateni Tapueluelu, confirms the Niua's MP, Sosefo Vakata, has withdrawn his support.

"There is no apparent reason that he makes. He just wants to be independent so that he can perhaps serve his district better that way if he is open minded to whichever party can make it to government. It can support either thesis; that the nobility have the majority and everyone is flocking to their camp, or that the nobility is really split and that's why they are reaching out for representatives of the people to make up their majority."