20 Dec 2010

Tonga MPs to formally choose prime minister today

6:50 am on 20 December 2010

Tongans will today learn which of the factions competing to become the country's new government has been successful.

The 26 MPs elected in an historic poll last month gather in parliament for the first time to choose from two candidates for prime minister.

He will replace Dr Feleti Sevele, who was the first commoner serving as prime minister.

Don Wiseman reports.

"The poll on November 25th saw the Friendly Islands Democratic Party, led by long time pro-democracy campaigner, Akilisi Pohiva, win 12 of the 17 seats decided by popular vote. Despite this stunning victory there have been no firm signals in the weeks since that the party has been able to win the additional support it needs. However it has remained confident of assuming power and has advocated a government of national unity, to be led by Mr Pohiva. But that idea has been rejected by the other faction, built around the nine nobles representatives selected by the nobility. The nobles, claiming the support of up to six of the people's representatives, hope their candidate for prime minister, the noble Tu'ivakano, will be successful. Under the new constitutional arrangements King George Tupou the 5th will have to endorse the decision of the MPs but that's expected to be a formality."