PM in fix over portfolio, but euphoric over voters’ ‘huge support’ after dissolution

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Prime Minister 'Akilisi Pōhiva. Photo/Kalino Lātū

Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva said last night he was trying to cope with the pressure of making sure his MPs were fairly rewarded with government posts when they took power after the upcoming election of Prime Minister’s post.

In an exclusive interview, he told Kaniva News his sitting Ministers could retain their current portfolios.

The Prime Minister, who was meeting with his party at the Fā‘onelua convention centre yesterday, was confident nothing could hinder his party’s pathway to power.

However, Hon. Pōhiva was lost for words when he was asked what was his first reaction to last week’s snap election results.

“It was a very, very…..,” he responded, before pausing briefly. Then his face filled with a jubilant expression.

His Democratic Party won 97 percent or 14 out of 17 parliamentary seats for people’s representatives, allowing them to form the new government without needing the help of the independents or the nobility.

He said this ministerial line up would be totally different from the 2014 because the party had won enough seats to form the government, whereas in 2014 they brought in independent MPs.

The Minister of Finance, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of MEIDECC had been recently assigned to sitting Cabinet ministers after former Finance Minister Tēvita Lavemaau and former Deputy Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni were dismissed in September.

These Ministries needed ministers of their own, a move that could require new appointments to these ministers’ other portfolios or new appointments for these Ministries, Hon. Pōhiva said.

The other posts which the Prime Minister has the power to give his MPs are the two governorships for Vava’u and Ha’apai.

Tonga’s Parliament will elect the next Prime Minister after November 30 when the Writ of Election will be returned to the king.

The new Prime Minster will then elect his new cabinet ministers, including the two governors.

Huge supports after dissolution

Hon. Pōhiva said the election results undeniably showed there was increasing support for his democratic party.

In 2014 40, 736 voters went to the polls and about 35 percent (14, 681) voted for the Democrats, while 65 percent (26, 118 votes) voted for independent candidates.

A total of 39, 523 voters went to the poll in last week’s snap election. About 44 percent (17,565) voted for the Democrats, while others voted for non-Democratic Party candidates

Hon. Pōhiva said this was obviously the best outcome he had experienced in the 30 years he had been involved with Tongan politics, especially since it came after the king dissolved Parliament in August.

He said he was expecting his Party to win 15 seats but his Vava’u 15 candidate Tomifā Paea was unable to defeat sitting MP Sāmiu Vaipulu.

“If we had time for all the Party members to go there and support Tomifā I can tell he will win,” Hon Pohiva said.

He said only three Party members were available at the time to go to Vava’u and support Tomifā on the week following the election.

Hon. Pōhiva said he understood his Party wanted more times to work together with their ‘Eua and Tongatapu 3 MPs.

Concerns over independents

It is understood that during the campaign for the snap election there was concern among some voters that the independent sitting MPs could lose their seats because of their decision to change direction and stand for the Party.

The independent MPs were Minister of Health Dr. Saia Piukala, Minister of Justice Sione Vuna Fā’otusia,  Minister of Public Enterprises Poasi Mataele Tei and MP ‘Akosita Lavulavu, who had  supported PM Pōhiva in the Vote of No Confidence.

They were all voted in on Thursday last week, with Dr. Piukala holding the largest votes in the snap election with 1366 votes, an increase of 134 votes.

Hon. Fā’otusia, who was voted in as independent MP in 2014, but immediately signed the Party’s memorandum after the election results were announced, had 822 votes, but in last week’s election he was re-elected with 1274 votes, an increase of 452 votes.

Hon. Tei was voted in with 1036 votes in 2014. He was re-elected as Party MP with 1426 votes, an increase of 390 votes.

‘Akosita Lavulavu’s husband, the outgoing Vava’u 16 MP ‘Etuate Lavulavu, had 767 votes in 2014 after he campaigned as an independent candidate.

His wife ‘Akosita stood for the Party in the snap election and was elected with 921 votes, an increase of 246 votes over husband’s tally.

Applause for Vava‘u results

When Hon. Pōhiva was asked to comment on the results gained by the independent MPs who stood for his Party he smiled.

“The voters were enlightened and understanding,” he replied.

Hon. Pōhiva applauded the Vava’u election results, saying they showed there was an increasing support for the Party in Tonga’s second largest island groups.

Vava’u has been known for its electoral swing.

In the past its vote had been mixed in political affiliations with candidates who declared their political affiliation to Hon. Pohiva such as Havea Kātoa (1990), Ipeni Siale (1997) and Koliniasi Afuha’amango in 2000.

When they voted out some of these MPs they replaced them with candidates who declared their affiliation to those who supported the status quo.

The Party has three newly elected MPs: Vātau Hui of Niua 17, Mo’ale Fīnau of Ha‘apai 12 and Losaline Ma’asi of Tongatapu 5.

MP ‘Akosita did not have any portfolio or government post since she supported Hon. Pōhiva after the 2015 by-election.

In 2014 The governorship of Ha’apai was awarded to unsuccessful party candidate for Ha’apai 12, Mo’ale Fīnau, while the governorship of Vava’u was given to a member of the nobility, Lord Fulivai.

The Ministry of Land and Survey was awarded to another member of the nobility, Lord Ma’afu.

The main points

  • Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva said last night he was trying to cope with the pressure of making sure his MPs were fairly rewarded with government posts when they took power after the upcoming election of Prime Minister’s post.
  • In an exclusive interview, he told Kaniva News his sitting Ministers could retain their current portfolios.
  • The Prime Minister, who was meeting with his party at the Fa‘onelua convention centre yesterday, was confident nothing could hinder his party’s pathway to power.
  • Pohiva said the election results undeniably showed there was increasing support for his democratic party.

For more information 

Democrats have numbers to form government on their own after final count

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