Tongan MPs choose Siaosi Sovaleni as new Prime Minister


Tonga’s Parliament has elected a new prime minister to replace Pōhiva Tu’i’onetoa.

Siaosi Sovaleni, 51, the Minister of Education, has won convincingly with 16 votes, to former Minister of Finance and MP Dr ‘Aisake Eke, who got 10 votes.

The Interim Speaker Lord Tangi announced the results this afternoon after he first informed King Tupou VI about the winner.

The results showed what appeared to be the nobility MPs’ votes were split with apparently four of them supported Sovaleni while the remaining five voted for Dr Eke.

Sovaleni, who was a minister in good standing in the Tu’i’onetoa government, recently crossed the floor to form his new bloc and gain the support from a united group of independent MPs and PTOA Party MPs.

Three other MPs who were part of Tu’i’onetoa’s PAK party, also crossed the floor and joined Sovaleni.

The only people’s MP and interim Cabinet Minister who supported Tu’i’onetoa was the Niua MP Vātau Hui.

The defection of the four members meant Tu’i’onetoa had to withdraw his candidacy for the premiership election because he did not have the number of MPs required by law to support and nominate him as a candidate.

This week, Tu’i’onetoa complained about being dumped by his own interim Cabinet Ministers, saying he just found out after the general elections on 18 November that his unity with his interim ministers in the past four months was fake.

In his speech before the election this morning, Sovaleni said people, the chiefs and the king lived under what he described as one house. He said people have to learn to know how to live together.

He said education, health, economic developments, e-government, Climate Changes, war on illicit drugs, natural disasters, youths and women initiatives and good governance were some of his priorities.
In his vote of thanks after he was declared the winner this afternoon, Sovaleni was emotional and congratulated his supporters and all MPs. He also thanked his unsuccessful rival candidate Dr Eke and said they previously worked together in the Ministry of Finance.