Vote of no confidence a possibility in Tonga
A political scientist says a possible vote of no confidence against the Tonga government poses a very real threat for them.
The Tonga government could face a vote of no confidence within weeks and a political scientist says it is in a precarious position.
Tonga has a law that does not permit no confidence votes until 18 months after an election and that limit expires in June.
The administration of Akilisi Pohiva, the first democratic government led by a commoner in Tonga's history, came to power by a narrow margin at the end of 2014.
It has since lost two MPs - Mateni Tapueluelu's election was unlawful, although he is appealing, and the tourism minister 'Etuate Lavulavu, was found guilty of bribery and overspending during his campaign.
Don Wiseman asked the director of the Pasifika Centre at Massey University, Malakai Koloamatangi, if the Pohiva government could go.
MALAKAI KOLOAMATANGI: The simple answer is yes and for the reasons that you've already given. The current government is not performing or is not assuming the results that people had hoped for, unrealistically I might add, people had high expectations.
DON WISEMAN: They were too high.
MK: They were too high. To a certain extent it was cultivated by the pro democracy MPs, they saw it as a way of persuading people to come over to their side and to vote them in, which worked of course but then you have to deliver on your promises.
DW: They've promised perhaps too much and can't deliver.
MK: That's right.
DW: Now, handicapped of course by the state of the economy, it's been very poor for a long time but they don't have that spark that good governments seem to have do they?
MK: No they don't, that's a very valid observation. In many ways the current government has not lived up to expectations as I said and in fact it hasn't done well. Many of the reasons for that has been of its own making, in the sense that people understood them to be an inexperienced government with an inexperienced prime minister and an inexperienced cabinet. So what they needed to do was to demonstrate in a tangible way how that inexperience could be mitigated by other things such as perhaps calling on advisors or calling on people with goodwill to help them out particularly in that initial period to settle them in. Of course that opportunity has been lost.
DW: Well they did bring some people back from New Zealand didn't they?
MK: They were unsuitable to put it simply and I think the prime minister himself has taken on too much. He's the prime minister, he's the minister of education, foreign affairs, and defence so the big job of prime minister is enough of a problem, while the education portfolio has been quite problematic recently in Tonga. I'm guessing that that has also weighed on the prime minister's mind but my sense is that out of 10, as a report card for this current government probably a five and a half to a six.
DW: all right so they're going into this vote, it's looking shaky but complicating it is that they're two people down because they've lost two MPs.
MK: That's right in politics it comes down to numbers and at the moment as you say the prime minister is not sure of who will replace the two MPs who have been disqualified and in fact even in his own cabinet it seems like that he might have some defections but we're not quite sure yet. You see politicians of course like any other politicians around the world when they see that they are in a sinking ship self-preservation comes first to them and remember most of these ministers are very new to parliament they are actually not mature politicians so they don't have any I suppose fixed positions that they will hold on to no matter what so they're very opportunistic as well if you think back to the way that this current government was established that many of these current ministers were actually on the other side, they were enticed over to this current government by the promises of ministerial positions and so forth.
DW: Yes and amongst that group there are some quite talented people aren't there, some of those independents who've sat on the fence through this period.
MK: Yeah, minister of health is a good example, he's very well qualified medical doctor himself. The minister of finance is also very qualified financial person so there are some good people.
DW: You say there's a very real chance that they could go?
MK: Yes, there's a very good chance. In a way it's not so much what this government has done, it's actually probably what they haven't done that will probably tip the balance. There's always been in the background or the other side as it were a group of people who were not happy for one reason or another with the current government and if they are able to come together in a unified way and are able perhaps to entice two or three cabinet ministers to their side then we will have a real challenge on our hands. Of course there are two steps to the process; one is to propose the vote of no confidence and of course parliament will discuss it and then the second step is to actually go for the vote of no confidence so there are two steps.
DW: And this is a step Tonga's never been through.
MK: Never been through and there was an attempt to carry out with the previous government but the process I felt then was too cumbersome and not clear enough. I understand this time around there is legislation in place that will make it much more simpler.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: