Discussion paper

The Tongan Monarchy and the Constitution: political reform in a traditional context

19 Dec 2014
Description

In the course of Tonga's political reform, the devolution of executive powers was incomplete due to the retention by the Monarch of several specific powers that have remained defined in the Constitution ever since its promulgation in 1875. Why did this occur?

Abstract

The subjects of this paper are the Kingdom of Tonga, its Monarchy, its Constitution, its traditional values and political reform. It is now well known that the government and Legislative Assembly of Tonga (the Assembly) made a momentous decision four years ago in 2010, when it amended the Constitution of Tonga (the Constitution) to shift most of the executive powers of the state from the Monarch to a Cabinet of elected leaders. For the first time in Tonga’s history, the government was then elected. Four years later, on 27 November 2014, that government was called to account when Tongans went to the polls again to elect a second one.

In the course of the reform, the devolution of executive powers was incomplete due to the retention by the Monarch of several specific powers that have remained defined in the Constitution ever since its promulgation in 1875. Why did this occur? The purpose of this paper is to examine the Tongan context, particularly such features as Tonga’s history, social structure, development of systems of law and government, and persisting social values. In the course of suggesting answers to the above question, the paper will offer an account of the political reform process and its outcomes.

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2014
10
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