After less than two years being crowned as Tonga’s absolute monarch, King Siaosi Tupou V will relinquish much of his powers and allow democracy onto his small Pacific nation for the first time.
This comes as a relief for many Tongans, who have been looking for reform for years. Even the King’s late father admitted on his deathbed it was time for change in his kingdom.
Teisina Fuko, president of the Tongan People’s Democratic Party, told the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, “Tonga can now go ahead and develop a political party system like those seen in New Zealand and Australia.”
Currently, Tonga has a political system much like feudalism. Its Parliament is filled with aristocrats, chiefs and other supporters of the monarchy. King Siaosi himself has the ability to apoint the prime minister and other ministers.
Perhaps it became obvious to the King to give up his absolute authority when his coronation was delayed two years due to pro-democracy riots.
Most Tongans look towards the monarchy with affection, but there is concern over its future. The King, age 61, is unmarried and there is no heir apparent yet.