TONGAN SHIFT SEEN AS MOVE TOWARD DEMOCRACY

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MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Nov. 12) – Tonga's pro-democracy movement has welcomed the new announcement of a change in the country's political system, which will see elected commoners in the cabinet for the first time.

After elections next February, there will be four new cabinet positions - two nobles and two commoners - to be elected to their positions.

Under the current system, cabinet ministers are appointed by the king and become voting members of the 30-member legislature. Just nine legislators are elected by Tongan citizens.

The new political move was announced this week by Tongan Prime Minister, Prince Ulukalala Ata, as part of an initiative by the king to reform the nation’s political system and its failing economy.

The leader of Tonga's pro-democracy movement, Akilisi Pohiva, says the change is significant.

"I think this is the beginning of real and concrete reform we want to see happen in this country and maybe the next election, that will start in the next election, and I think they will expand the reform to include more representatives of the nobles, of the people, in the future elections but this is the beginning."

November 12, 2004

Radio Australia: www.abc.net.au/ra

 

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