TONGA ON TRACK TO HISTORIC DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS

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Parliament to address critical legislation in coming weeks

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, Sept. 14, 2010) – Tonga’s Parliament will go into urgency to debate legislation that is required to be passed before a general election is held. The Kingdom of Tonga Government announced Tuesday morning that it will hold elections on November 25th, 2010.

In a statement the Government indicated Parliament will go into urgency for the next 2-1/2 weeks to table and debate constitutional bills. New laws must be passed so there is a legal framework in place prior to the election that legitimizes constitutional reform.

Tonga has long sought a path that maintains its tradition as a constitutional monarchy, giving nobility representation in the Parliament while modernizing its constitution to embrace democracy to meet the wants of commoners.

Since the new King George Tupou V’s coronation, moves to reform the constitution have been afoot.

The events surrounding Black Thursday, where 80 percent of Tonga’s capital Nuku΄alofa was burnt down, arguably demonstrated how divided Tonga had become. In the days after the riots the King indicated a willingness to allow constitutional reform to occur.

But deep divisions existed between nobility representation and the leaders of the pro-democracy movement. (See Scoop interview with Clive Edwards and video report The Aftermath of Black Thursday.)

To follow is Tuesday’s full statement from the Kingdom of Tonga Government.

Kingdom of Tonga Statement: Timetable of Election Related Events

The Government has confirmed, with the consent of His Majesty, that, as long ago announced, there will be a general election in Tonga on 25th November 2010.

There are a number of important Bills that bring the laws into conformity with the constitutional changes and that need to be dealt with and passed before the Legislative Assembly is dissolved. Government plans to ask the Assembly to sit late and long to deal with these Bills, and others, over the following 2-1/2 weeks.

In preparation for the election, there are a number of steps that must be taken, and the Government has decided, with the consent of His Majesty and in accordance with the Constitution and the law, that the timetable for these steps shall be as follows:

The Government has asked the King to dissolve the Legislative Assembly on 30th September and His Majesty has consented to do so, under His power in clause 77(2) of the Constitution, as usual before an election.

The Electoral Act requires that writs for an election be issued not less than 8 weeks before an election, and accordingly under section 7 of the Electoral Act the King, on the advice of the Prime Minister, proposes to issue those writs of election on 30th September.

The dates for the nomination of Candidates are set by the Electoral Commission who have advised that if writs of election are issued on 30th September they are likely to call for nominations of Candidates for 21st and 22nd October.

The Election for representatives of the people and of the Nobles will be on 25th November.

After consulting the Electoral Commission, it is expected that the writs of election will specify that the return of writs of election (advising the King of the result of the election) will be set at no later than 9th December.

The Government, including the Cabinet and Privy Council, will continue as usual until a date when it is anticipated that all of the remaining constitutional amendments will be given Royal Assent and brought into force. From that date the Privy Council as currently constituted will no longer meet.

From the date of the election, the Prime Minister, and Cabinet Ministers will continue in "caretaker" mode until new Prime Minister and Ministers are appointed.

When the results of the election are known, the new Constitutional provisions will govern how a Prime Minister Designate is to be nominated by the elected representatives. When the Prime Minister Designate is appointed by the King as Prime Minister, he shall nominate his cabinet Ministers for appointment by the King under the new clause 51 of the Constitution.

The Legislative Assembly must meet, as specified in section 14 of the Legislative Assembly Act, within 6 weeks of the return of writs of election.

Pacific Scoop All editorial and news content produced under the principles of Creative Commons. Permission to republish with attribution may be obtained from the Pacific Media Centre - pmc@aut.ac.nz

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