THE Legislative Assembly of Tonga will reconvene for a special sitting on Wednesday December 24th to elect the new Prime Minister (PM), according to Interim Speaker Lord Tupou.
Lord Tupou confirms this to 25 parliamentarians who were present today during his briefing session with MPs at the Fa’onelua Convention Centre.
This follows the return of the election writ to His Majesty today.
Lord Tupou states the return of the election writ was further delayed due to a recount application from former Ha’apai 12 MP, Mo’ale Finau submitted to the Election Supervisor, Pita Vuki last Thursday.
The recount result was announced over the weekend with current MP Manuopangai Hingano as the winning candidate. He won an extra vote from 535 while Finau’s result remains the same with 532 votes.
Lord Tupou also briefed the newly elected and incumbent parliamentarians on the process for election of the new PM as well as the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
10 days from the return of the election writ to His Majesty, the Interim Speaker will call for nominations for PM on December 19th.
14 days from today after the return of the election writ which is December 23, the nominations for PM close.
Within three days of PM nominations’ closing, the House will have a special sitting to elect the new PM. The special sitting of the Legislative Assembly is likely to be December 24, 29 or December 30th.
The Interim Speaker also informed MPs that the successful candidate to become the PM must receive the majority vote from the 26 elected members.
He asserts MPs that if more than two candidates nominated for the premiership role, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and another vote taken two days later.
According to Lord Tupou, this will continue until someone wins the majority vote.
The Interim Speaker will then report to the King that MPs recommend the winning candidate as Prime Minister designate.
Following that, the PM designate will then be appointed by the King.
The Legislative Assembly will also meet within six weeks after the return of the election writs and PM will take his oath of office before the Legislative Assembly.
Then new PM will choose his 12 member Cabinet Ministers. According to the Constitution, PM has the right to elect up to four non-elected members from outside. However, Lord Tupou highlights that Cabinet is limited to 12 members only including the PM.
The current PM, Lord Tu’ivakano also raised with the Interim Speaker the possibility ofr the House sitting on December 29 instead of December 24 given the fact that Christmas Eve is a busy time of the festive season.
In response, Lord Tupou states he will have an audience with the King on the subject matter and which shall be finalized later.
The Interim Speaker also confirmed with the media that election of new PM will be before the New Year but expressed doubts it will be done before Christmas.
All MPs attended the briefing session except the current Minister of Health and elected Noble Representative number one of Vava’u, Lord Tu’i'afitu who is currently on an official work trip overseas.