Last week, Tongans were taken by surprise by a sudden proclamation from the king, Tupou VI, that, following consideration of advice from the Speaker, Parliament was dissolved immediately and commanding fresh elections be held on 16 November, a year ahead of schedule. The move underscored the complications involved in embedding the country’s new democracy.
In 2010 Tonga made a historic switch to a more democratic system, following a process instigated by then King George Tupou V (who reigned 2006-2012). Under his predecessor, King Tupou IV, a pro-democracy movement had grown up, calling for political reform. An increasing tempo of protest had built up, culminating in the tragic riots of 16 November 2006, which occurred despite the new king’s having by then already declared his commitment to democratisation.