Preparing for election of a new Tongan prime minister

Today is the final day for nominations in Tonga's Parliament of candidates for the election of a new Prime Minister to replace the late 'Akilisi Pohiva.

But the pro-democracy party of the late Prime Minister may not have the majority for their nomination to win the prime ministerial election.

This is because four party members in Parliament have joined the opposition.

The four who defected includes the Minister of Finance and Planning, Pohiva Tu'i'onetoa; the Minister of Justice, Vuna Fa'otusia; the member from Vava'u 16, Akosita Lavulavu; and the member from Niua, Vavatau Hui.

The defections mean that the pro-democrats will have only 9 votes for their nomination.

The by-election for the vacant seat of the late prime minister in his constituency will not take place until November 28, and so will not count in the votes or candidacy to be Prime Minister.

That leaves the opposition side of the nobles plus the three independents with a strong majority to vote in a prime minister of their choice, particularly if the four defectors are counted in.

Another reason for the uncertainty of the pro-democrats winning the election is disunity from within their ranks, meaning there could be more than one nomination for prime minister.

Sources within the party said this will rule out their chance of voting in a Prime Minister of their choice, unless of-course there are defections from the nobles and independents, which our correspondent said is most unlikely.

The election of the new prime minister is expected to take place during the sitting of Parliament next week.