The Kingdom of Tonga has a population of approximately 100,000 people. Tonga is the only constitutional monarchy in the Pacific. Between 2006 and 2010, Tonga underwent a major constitutional reform and democratisation process. The Legislative Assembly formerly had 9 members elected by the entire country, 9 members elected by the Nobles of Tonga and any number of members appointed by the King. Following the reforms, the Legislative Assembly now comprises of 17 members elected by the entire country (called People’s Representatives), 9 members elected by the Nobles of Tonga and up to 4 members appointed by the King. The Prime Minster is then chosen from amongst the members of the House.
The first elections under this new electoral system were held in 2010 whereby the election of members is conducted under the simple majority voting system of ‘First-Past-the-Post’ (FPTP). Under this system, the candidate with the most votes is elected. No women were elected during the 2010 elections. However, the King chose to appoint two members to the Legislative Assembly – one of whom was a woman.
Tonga held its second general elections under the new electoral system on November 27th 2014 where a total of 106 candidates stood for the elections, 16 of whom were women (15.09%). Unfortunately no women got elected into Parliament in 2014. Following a Supreme Court ruling in January 2016 that found the then Minister and Peoples Representative, Mr. ‘Etuate Lavulau guilty of bribery and overspending during the 2014 elections, Mr. Lavulavu vacated his seat in the Legislative Assembly, and a by-election was held on July 14th 2016 to elect a new member of Parliament. Four candidates stood for the by-election, including Ms. Akosita Havili Lavulavu, wife of ‘Etuate Lavulavu. Hon. Akosita Havili Lavulavu polled 754 of the 1913 votes in the 2016 by-election and was the only female member of the Legislative Assembly of Tonga.
On 25th August 2017, King Tupou VI of Tonga officially dissolved Tonga’s Legislative Assembly on the advice of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, Honorable Lord Tuivakano. The officially gazetted dissolution of the national Parliament effectively put the Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva and his cabinet into caretaker mode, and called for a new election to be held no later than November 16, 2017. The electoral commission put out a call for nominations to interested and eligible candidates for at least three weeks with the close of nominations for 27th September 2017.
Media outlet Kaniva Tonga reported that 86 candidates had officially registered to stand in the November 2017 general elections, out of which 15 were women candidates. Following the snap elections, 2 women were elected into Parliament, with Hon. ‘Akosita Lavulavu re-elected, together with newcomer Hon. Losaline Ma’asi.
With the untimely passing of the Honorable Prime Minister. ‘Akilisi Pohiva in September 2019, and following the election by the legislature of Hon. Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa as Tonga’s new Prime Minister, a new woman MP,Dr. Ámelia Tuípulotu was appointed as the Minister for Health. The new Cabinet line up also includes Hon. Akosita Lavulavu as the Minister of Cabinet for Government.
‘Akosita Havili Lavulavu
Term: 2: 2016 - 2017; 2017 - 2021
Electorate: Vava'u 16
Political Status: Minister of Cabinet for Government
Dr ‘Amelia Tu’ipulotu
Term: 2019 - 2021
Political Status: Minister for Health
Hon. Losaline Ma’asi
Term: 1: October 2017 - current
Electorate: Tongatapu 5
Political Status: Member of Parliament