1 Dec 2014

Tonga Democrats confuse voters - academic

From , 4:04 pm on 1 December 2014

A political scientist says the Democratic Party in Tonga may have confused the electorate, resulting in it doing relatively poorly in last Thursday's poll.

The party, led by long time democracy campaigner Akilisi Pohiva, will be a dominant feature of the new legislature as it was after the 2010 election, but again it has failed to win a majority.

The director of Pasifika at Massey University, Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, predicted before the poll that the Democrats would not manage their goal of taking all the seats.


MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: Judging from how the democrats did in 2010 and elections prior to that I thought that they would be lucky to get 7 MPs and I think they have eight which is of course not enough. Well not half of the 17 so they struggled particularly in Vava'u and also in Niua where their candidate did not get in.

DON WISEMAN: Some very interesting people in this time round Siaosi Sovaleni, do you think he will play a significant role of the new parliament?

MK: Well he's a young candidate and relatively unknown politically. A first timer and he managed to ward off Clive Edwards who of course was a seasoned politician and also former minister of Justice and also the democratic party's own nominee who was Simoti Vea. That was of course that electorate was Dr Steven Halapua's old electorate. I think Siaosi Sovaleni will probably remain independent because I think if he was a supporter of the democratic party he would have done it already. But he is well known in his own electorate and the electorate of course is in Nuku Alofa and so he will have some influence.

DW: Why do you think the Democrats did relatively poorly?

MK: I think they were not as united as they should have been. If they had been united around one list of candidates I think that would have made campaigning much more easier for them and less confusing for the electorates as well. I think a lot of the people particularly outside Nuku Alofa would have been I think confused by the conflicting messages that were coming from Pohiva and also of course from the incumbents that he had campaigned with in 2010 but obviously discarded for this campaign. So I think they were probably confused and were not probably informed enough to make the decision or to make the transistion from the old MPs to this new crop of candidates.

DW: The Democrats at the moment are busy negotiating to try and form a coalition. What are their chances of still being at the heart of the government?

MK: There is a problem, their main problem is that the nobles tend to vote en masse and they tend to vote as a block in parliament. So their 9 nobles will be less likely to support a, say Pohiva for PM. So they don't need very many, they only need 4 or 5 more, plus the nobles for them to become government. So Pohiva, I know he has aspirations to be Prime Minister. He must persuade either some of the nobles to come over to his side or some of the Independent MPs and unfortunately those two options are very difficult for him to do.