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Ready to ‘meet democratic aspirations of his people’

HONOLULU (Pacific Islands Report, July 30, 2008) – Tonga King Siaosi Tupou V reportedly has said he will hand much of his absolute power over to the people to facilitate the country’s move towards democracy.

According to news agency Agence France-Press, the king issued a statement saying he would make "appropriate changes" in order to allow a shift in power to the government.

Tupou V became king two years ago with the death of his father, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV. But unlike the elderly king, who reigned for decades in the last Pacific monarchy, the new king assumed the throne amidst an increasing clamor for democracy. The growing unrest resulted in a devastating riot in late 2006 in which much of the heart of Nukualofa, the country’s capital, was burned to the ground.

Tupou V’s coronation, which promises to be a spectacle, is to take place on Friday.

According to a statement from the king’s spokesman, Lord Chamberlain, the king "is voluntarily surrendering his powers to meet the democratic aspirations of many of his people."

The statement said the king views the royal heritage as integral to Tonga's culture and identity, but he accepts the need for a more representative, elected parliament, according to AFP

"His majesty wishes to ensure that the monarchy is fully prepared for elections in 2010 under a revised voting system granting the majority voice in parliament to the people," the statement said.

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