TONGANS OVERSEAS UNABLE TO CAST BALLOTS

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20 percent of registered voters abroad

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Tonga Broadcasting Commission,) –There are key problems with Parliament elections in Tonga and is to do with electoral rolls, involving cases of people who turned up to polling stations and find out that their names are not on the roll.

Dr. John Frankall of the Australian National University (ANU) and Dr Malakai Koloamatangi of the University of Canterbury made these comment while in Tonga to observe the actual process of the elections and make recommendations in strengthening the electoral process.

According to Dr Koloamatangi, one of the issues raised, is how we deal with overseas voters who are eligible to remain on the electoral roll but they are not able to cast votes unless they return to Tonga.

It estimated that about 20-percent of those who never cast their votes were overseas during the elections.

There was no reason given for the remaining percentage of those who did not turn up to cast their votes, but it was believed that the figures involved deceased, patients at the hospitals and people who never bothered to attempt to cast their votes.

Not only that, there were also those that had registered in two constituencies, for e.g. in Tongatapu and in Vava'u as well, and only voted in one of the two which meant that the number of registered voters who did not cast their ballots in the second constituency would increase.

Dr. Frankall and Dr. Malakai were in Tonga as part of government’s effort to accelerate political reforms.

Dr. Malakai said that in a survey in Vava'u, it was understood that there were a majority who did not support the political reforms.

The results of the elections in the 2 Niuas also showed their independence on this key issue.

For Ha'apai, some of the people wanted someone who would aid them economically. Meanwhile, it is understood that the votes of the Ha'apai people in Tongatapu pretty much determined the overall results of the Ha'apai vote.

However in the Tongatapu electoral results as well as in the 'Eua results, there was a revelation that a good majority was supportive of the political reforms.

Asked on whether Tongans living overseas should be able to vote, Dr. Malakai and Dr. Frankall said that there would be marked differences in the votes as the overseas Tongans had different views of Tonga and also different agendas.

Dr. Frankall of the ANU said that the changes in the electoral process that have been suggested in the political reform models, like the use of the Single Transferrable Vote, is a tedious process and has been problematic in other countries like Fiji and needs to be reviewed and further debated and a better process explored for use in Tonga.

The survey carried out by Doctor's. Malakai and Frankall will be submitted to government and will also submit views on appropriate electoral reforms that can be implemented in 2010.

Tonga Broadcasting Commission: http://69.64.78.143/index.php

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