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Tonga’s Freedom Fighter aims for election victory

Pohiva’s last swan song

For veteran Tongan freedom fighter ‘Akilisi Pohiva, the election this month will be the final roll of the dice in a political career which started 40-odd years ago as a student at Fiji’s University of the South Pacific. At 73, Pohiva probably has this one moment in time to see his dreams come true. “I’m confident that we will win the election,” he says of the 17 independent candidates standing under the banner of the Tongan Democracy Party, a coalition of likeminded individuals.

“We should be able to secure a majority and with it control of Parliament.” Pohiva will field 17 candidates for the seats held by commoners. Political parties are not allowed under the Tongan Constitution and nine seats in the house are reserved for nobles. While the rest of Tonga votes for 17 candidates, a mere 33 nobles will determine who represents the nobility. That will change if Pohiva comes to power.

“We will keep the system of the Royal Family with the king as our head, the nobility but anyone in Parliament must be there because the people have chosen the person,” Pohiva said. “That is what we mean by democracy – a constitutional monarchy with parliamentarians elected by and responsible to the people.” After the last election the nine nobles enticed five independent MPs – elected under Pohiva’s banner – to cross the floor and form government. It was disappointing for Pohiva who has made adjustments to the selection process this year.

“We can win 14 seats and our people are professionals who have so much to offer Tonga. I believe we will have a majority, form government and give the people of Tonga policies which bring about change for the better – accountability, transparency and justice.”

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