King of Tonga to hand power to Prime Minister, ending era of absolute monarchy

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Prime Minister of Tonga (pictured) is to receive the king's powers in 2010
Image: Elisia V. Gonzales.

George Tupou V, the current king of Tonga, has announced that he will give up his position as an absolute monarch by relinquishing most of his powers. A spokesperson for the king explained the decision. He said that the people "favour a more representative, elected parliament, the king agrees with them."

The spokesperson said that Tupou would be guided by the Prime Minister, Feleti Sevele, "in all matters of governance." The transition to democracy is due to occur in 2010.

In 2006, eight people were killed in Tonga during a pro-democracy rally. Protests like this have resulted in increased pressure being placed on the monarchy to embrace democracy.

Feleti Sevele became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Tonga after his election in 2006. At that time he was one of very few ministers who were not appointed by the king, and the power of the PM was limited.