One nomination for Tonga's next Prime Minister was submitted in a sealed envelope to parliament today, 22 December.
The Chief Clerk of the Tongan Parliament, Ms Gloria Pole'o, said that the nomination was tabled by the People's Representative for Ha'apai Constituent No. 12, Vili Manuopangai Hingano.
She said that the name of the nominee could not be made public until the election day when the 26 newly elected members of parliament will vote in a secret ballot to decide who will be the next Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for a group of seven independent PRs, 'Etuate Lavulavu, told Matangi Tonga last week that the independent PRs and the nine Nobles' Representatives had agreed to nominate Samiu Vaipulu, the Vava'u PR for Constituent No. 15 as their nominee for Prime Minister. Vaipulu is currently the care-taker Deputy Prime Minister.
The independent People's Representatives are Samiu Vaipulu, Fe’ao Vakata, Saia Piukala, ‘Etuate Lavulavu, Siaosi Sovaleni, Poasi Tei and Vili Hingano.
The nine Nobles' Representatives are: Lord Nuku, Lord Ma'afu, Lord Tu'iha'ateiho, Lord Tu'ivakano, Lord Fusitu'a, Lord Tu'iha'angana, Lord Tu'ilakepa, Lord Tu'I'afitu and Lord Vaea.
A second nomination is expected to come from the 10 elected members of the Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands (DPFI), whose affiliates are ‘Akilisi Pohiva, Semisi Sika, ‘Aisake Eke, Mateni Tapueluelu, Pohiva Tu’ionetoa, Semisi Fakahau, Penisimani Fifita, Tevita Lavemaau, Veivosa Taka and Vuna Fa’otusia.
If there are only two nominations then the Parliament's election of their Prime Minister should require only one round of voting. If more than two nominations are submitted, then a second round of voting will be required.
Gloria said that the closing time for nominations is 4.30pm tomorrow, 23 December. After the nominations close the Interim Speaker, Lord Tupou is expected to announce the election date.
There is speculation that Tonga may have a new Prime Minister by Christmas Eve.