NUKU’ALOFA (AFP) – The Democratic Party of sacked Tongan prime minister Akilisi Pohiva was poised to return to power without the aid of independents after a Commonwealth Observer Group declared itself satisfied on Saturday with the general election.
The Democrats won a resounding 14 of the 17 seats elected by the people in Thursday’s ballot, five more than in the 2014 election, to dominate the 26-seat parliament in which nine seats are taken by hereditary nobles.
“The results reflected the wishes of the people,” the observer group chairwoman, Margaret Wilson, said in an interim report released two days after the ballot.
Tongans went to the polls after King Tupou VI dissolved parliament and dismissed Pohiva, the first commoner to serve as prime minister of the Pacific kingdom.
Although the king never explained why he intervened in the island nation’s politics a year before the next scheduled general election, media reports said there were claims the government had acted unconstitutionally by signing international agreements without the king’s approval.
However, the voters showed overwhelming support for Pohiva and the Democratic Party.
The top-polling candidate and Democratic Party member, Pohiva Tu’ionetoa, told Radio New Zealand the result showed the people did not agree with the dissolution of parliament.
“Although the House has been dissolved, they do make a strong statement, that the people want the democracy to progress. The people state that the dissolution of Parliament was not the proper way to progress in democracy in this country,” Tu’ionetoa said.
“Akilisi Pohiva and his party made no secret that they wanted changes, continuing to push for the government rather than the king to appoint positions like the police commissioner, the attorney-general and the anti-corruption commissioner.”
Wilson, a former New Zealand attorney general, referred in her report to the “peaceful environment that enabled the people to exercise fully their democratic rights” in the political process.
“We found the election was conducted in accordance with Tonga’s national laws and the results reflected the wishes of the people.”
Under Tonga’s political regulations, the writs or confirmed final results after allowing for appeals and recounts, must be declared by November 30.
A royal-appointed interim speaker then has 10 days to invite MPs to submit nominations for prime minister who will be elected in a secret ballot, with the new government to be formed by the end of the year.