The MOU was signed by the Chair of Tonga’s Electoral Commission the RT Hon Ramsay Dalgety and New Zealand’s Chief Electoral Officer, Alicia Wright Monday afternoon.
The agreement is a NZ$1.5 million three-year programme funded by the Government of New Zealand through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The programme is aimed at improving electoral education, voters access, transparency of campaign finance and improving the quality of access to media for candidates in the 2021 General Elections.
Lord Dalgety said, “There’re a number of areas of technical assistance which we will be getting from New Zealand. But the key areas so far as we are concerned is electoral education, which is telling people what election is all about, how important they are for democracy and most important of all, please turn out and vote. Because that is the way you participate in democracy.”
He said that the electorate has grown from just over 42,000 in November 2010 to 59,716 voters as of May 1, 2019.
The represents a growth of 41 per cent.
“The population of the country hasn’t grown. It’s just that we have managed to capture all those who are entitled to vote. There maybe one or two left but not many. Having now captured them, we have to make sure that they participate in elections,” Lord Dalgety said.
He said that he does not agree with fining voters who do not turn up and vote because it is a “privilege to vote not a duty.”
Wright said, “This is important work and it highlights New Zealand’s commitment to the Pacific and it is an honour that countries like Tonga want to work alongside us as partners.”
The High Commissioner of New Zealand to Tonga, Tiffany Babington said that this programme is a “real sign of the maturity of the relationship between Tonga and New Zealand as we look to the Pacific Reset and helping with good governance, democratic processes and strong public services in the Pacific Region especially in our Polynesian neighbors including Tonga.”