About 60,000 Tongan voters are able to vote in a new government today.

They will be electing 17 People’s Representatives for the 26-member legislature.

The 33 noble families will elect their nine representatives from within their own ranks.

There are 72 candidates standing, including 12 women.

RNZ Pacific’s correspondent in Tonga, Kalafi Moala, said a high voter turnout is expected.

“There has been leading up to the election a very strong drive to get people registered to vote. People over 21 years of age are eligible to vote here in Tonga and then of course there’s been people that have returned from overseas, people that have moved from other areas.

So there has been a strong registration drive and so the expectation also is there will be a higher vote this year than the previous election,” he said.

The polls have just opened and a result in expected by 10 o’clock tonight.

If this election follows the pattern of recent elections the prime minister will not be chosen until nearer Christmas

Meanwhile, Noble Member of Parliament for the Niuas, Lord Fusitu’a has announced he is vacating his seat in Parliament due to health reasons.

Tonga’s parliament is made up of 17 elected seats and nine nobles chosen from among 33 title-holders.

Lord Fusitu’a Photo: RNZI

Fusitu’a is supporting His Serene Highness, Prince Kalaniuvalu Fotofili (1 of 3 Niua Lords) to be the representative of the Niuas in parliament (northernmost group of the Friendly islands).

“To my family, friends & supporters. I’m posting this so you hear it from me and not the media. I will not finish my rehab by the end of the year-it’s a few months yet on my new thigh and hip & I’ll also need another surgery before I’m back to 100% & able to get back from NZ to Tonga.

“That being the case, after much consideration, I am vacating my seat in Parliament & declaring myself unavailable as a candidate for the upcoming national general election on 18 November

“I appreciate the support of our Niua Lords but can’t in good conscience be elected for a 3rd consecutive year of Parliament in absentia & be in Auckland for medical treatment. I can only do so much remotely and that does NOT include voting on Bills or crucially for a Prime Minister

“That being the case and with the amount of work facing Parliament in this new term, we need all the bodies we can muster actually physically in the House.

“To ensure that I shall be voting for and putting all my support behind His Serene Highness Prince Kalaniuvalu Fotofili and I have asked my brethren Lord Tangipa shall follow suit.

“For those concerned about my ongoing Parliamentary work please rest assured it shall continue unabated with His Serene Highness in the House, it may be a different body, but the loyalties, policies and beliefs shall remain the same.

“I shall be advising HIs Serene Highness Prince Kalaniuvalu Fotofili on all matters in Parliament before him including what our priorities should be from the Niuas up to and including how we should vote on matters at hand.

“To any international colleagues concerned, I shall maintain my position as Chairman of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Group on Human Rights;

“The Chairmanship of the Asia Pacific Forum on Population and Development (AFPPD) of the Standing Committee on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment;

“And of course as Chairman of the Global Organisation of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) for Tonga and Oceania and on the World Board continuing our work with UNODC and UN-PRAC.

“Finally, my advocacy for Bitcoin and Bitcoin adoption in Tonga, fortunately does not require me to be any particular place physically and can be done remotely, so to that end, my work shall continue tirelessly.

“I shall in fact be able to devote even more of my time explicitly to bitcoin and bitcoin adoption in Tonga. And will this be exponentially increasing my work both internationally with our partners and domestically with our government to expedite our plans.

“Finally, as soon as my rehab from my current surgery is finished and I have had my next surgeries and recovered from those, I shall be back to Tonga & resume my duties both in spirit but by then-in person. I humbly thank His Serene Highness for holding the fort in my absence. And pray God bless all my brethren Lords and People’s Reps for tomorrow’s election,” said Lord Fusitua in a statement on his Facebook page.