Hon. Pohiva Tu‘i‘onetoa (58), one of two candidates nominated, was elected 15-8 this afternoon as Tonga’s new Prime Minister, by 23 elected members of the Tongan Parliament.
He received 15 votes to 8 votes received by the other nominee, Acting Prime Minister Hon. Semisi Sika.
He was Minister for Finance and National Planning under former Prime Minister, Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, who died on 12 September.
Today’s election of a new Prime Minister was a historical event for Tonga. The late Hon. Pohiva was the first Prime Minister to die in office.
The election process was called by the Speaker of the House, Lord Fakafanua, under the new system of government that was introduced in 2010.
The election of a new Prime Minister must be carried out by elected members of the House. There are 26 elected members of the Tongan Parliament, nine Nobles Representatives and 17 People’s Representatives (PRs).
The death of ‘Akilisi Pohiva leaves his People’s Representative seat vacant until a by-election can be called. So only 16 PRs were eligible to vote.
The Speaker Lord Fakafanua (a Noble) did not cast a vote. Another Noble, Lord Fusitu‘a, was away overseas for medical treatment, so there were only seven Nobles’ Representatives eligible to vote.
Hon. Pohiva Tu‘i‘onetoa will go through the process of nominating his new Cabinet Ministers over the next few days and weeks. He is expected to complete the term in office of the government of the late Hon. ‘Akilisi Pohiva, until the next parliamentary election is held in 2021.
Hon. Tu’i’onetoa is a Doctor of Christian Ministry from the Faith Faith Evangelical Lutheran Seminary, Tacoma, Washington, USA.
He studied accounting and became a Chartered Accountant in New Zealand in 1982. He went on to receive his Masters of Business (Accounting), Monash University, Melbourne, Australia in 1994, and is a Certified Management Accountant (Australia) 1997.
He served as Tonga’s Auditor General from 1983-2014 before he was first elected to parliament in the 2014 General Election as the People’s Representative for Tongatapu no. 10. In the governments of ‘Akilisi Pohiva, he has served as a Minister of Labour, Commerce, Police, Prisons and Fire Brigade; a Minister of Tourism, and since September 2017 as Minister of Finance and National Planning.
As Minister of Finance, Hon. Tu’i’onetoa, clashed with the House during the Budget debate in June this year.