Tongans urged to register and vote

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By Iliesa Tora

Tongans who are eligible to vote must register and vote at the 18 November General Elections in Tonga.

Supervisor of Elections Pita Vuki made the call at a media workshop on Monday this week.

“People should know that they have the opportunity to elect their reps and government at the election and they should exercise that right by voting,” Vuki told media reps at the pre-election workshop.

“That is a critical point for people to understand.”

He said those who are now 21 years old but have not registered to vote can still register now, with the Supplementary Roll containing additional names scheduled to be published on 04 November.

A total of 60,414 voters have their name on the current Roll. That is 29,496 males and 30,918 females.
Tongatapu currently has 42,477 voters with Vava’u totalling 9,168.

The highest number of voters are within the 31-40 years old bracket, that totalling 15,823 voters at the moment.

People between 21 to 30 years old total 10,498.

Vuki stressed the need for people to register if they are 21 years old, as those who do not register can be penalised.

He also added it was critical that people get to vote and have a say in who gets to represent them in Parliament.

A total of 74 candidates have confirmed they are standing for election.

That is less than the 86 who contested the 2017 elections.

Vuki revealed that the number of candidates contesting the elections have continued to drop since 2010.

In 2010 a total of 147 candidates contested the elections. A total of 106 candidates stood at the 2014 poll.

A reduction has also been recorded in the number of female candidates standing in the elections over the past four elections.

This year only 12 female candidates are standing.

Meanwhile, in addressing the workshop and adding to discussions on female candidates Vuki said the first step for local women who are pushing for more female representation in Parliament is to get more candidates to stand in the elections.

He said the push for more female reps in Parliament is not a new one.

“I think the first step is to get more candidates to stand in the different constituencies,” he said.

Former Member of Parliament Lepolo Taunisila told the workshop that it is important for Parliament, as a lawmaking entity, to include a balance of power – with both male and female representations.

She said unless that happens true democracy will not be achieved in Tonga.

“If there is no balance of representation then the laws made in parliament will be biased,” she told the workshop.

Taunisila also blamed the men in the families for influencing how their women members in the family vote during elections, adding Tongan women were obedient in nature to their men folks, especially when it comes to decisions on who to vote for.

That was disputed by veteran journalist Kalafi Moala, who shared that this was not so in the case of how female voters in Kolomotu’a supported the late Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva in 2014 and 2017.

“From my experience of working with the late Prime Minister Pohiva showed that his voters were more women than men,” he added.

Another veteran journalist and Publisher/Editor of the Matangi Tonga Pesi Fonua said women still needed to do a lot of work before standing for the elections.

He said the fact that there is only two female members in the last Parliament says alot about how people view women’s participation in politics.

“There is a lot that still needs to be done,” he added.

Journalists present at the workshop also raised the issue of changes made to the Constitution for special allocation of seats for female reps.

Taunisila responded that there were push made years back on that issue but nothing materialised.

SOURCE: NUKU’ALOFA ISLAND TIMES/PACNEWS