EDWARDS OUT, INCUMBENTS BACK IN TONGA ELECTION

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HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, Mar. 18) – Parliamentary hopeful William Clive Edwards has apparently failed by a wide margin in his first bid for a popular seat in Tonga’s Legislative Assembly.

Preliminary election results yesterday show the one-time government minister, turned outspoken opponent of the Tongan royal family, tallied 3,546 votes in his run for one of the three contested seats on the island of Tongatapu – a distant fourth to winners Akilisi Pohiva, Isileli Pulu and Feleti Sevele. The three reelected lawmakers, all incumbents, polled 11,103, 8,008 and 7,499 votes, respectively.

Other unofficial results yesterday indicated little change in the lineup of the nine legislative seats allotted to "Peoples" representatives in the 30-member parliament. Seven of the nine popularly elected lawmakers are incumbents.

The balance of 21 seats in Tonga’s parliament – the Fale Alea - is divided among a small ruling class of "Nobles" and appointees of King Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. The country’s 33 Nobles on Wednesday cast ballots to name their nine representatives. Tonga’s 12-member cabinet is appointed by the king.

Other apparent winners yesterday in other island districts are Sunia Fili, Uliti Uata, Fineasi Funaki and Sione Haukinima, all incumbent Peoples representatives. The two newcomers to join the parliamlent as People’s representatives are Viliami Kaufusi and Samiu Kuita.

Edwards, a confidant of the Royal family who was noted for his energetic enforcement of media bans in Tonga, changed his tune after being ousted as Police Minister last year – reportedly for his criticism of the failure of Royal Tonga Airlines. In the final days of his campaign, Edwards was embraced by some who saw him as a potentially potent ally for the country’s struggling pro-democracy movement.

A record 65,000 voters registered for the elections.

March 18, 2005

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