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Bribery and corruption plagues Tonga’s parliament

The Tongan parliament is in shock as another member of parliament in Tonga was kicked out after the Supreme Court found that he had bribed voters to win his seat in the general elections last year.

Minister for Finance Tatafu Moeaki will be unseated from the Legislative Assembly on 16 May. This brings the number of parliamentarians to lose their seats because of bribery to three.

Three more parliamentarians could be headed that way as the Supreme Court in Tonga is still hearing their petitions.

The speaker of the Tongan parliament, Lord Fakafanua received the certification from the Supreme Court late last week to declare Moeaki’s election void.

He will be unseated with former prime minister Pohiva Tuʻiʻonetoa and cabinet minister Sione Sangster Saulala on May 16.

Once unseated, their seats will become vacant and the speaker will then issue the writ for election of new representatives for these constituencies.

However, the date for the election of the new representatives will be determined by the Electoral Commission in consultation with the speaker.

Tatafu Moeaki has become the third Tongan MP to be unseated. Picture: Twitter

The election petitions were filed in the Supreme Court shortly after the election results were announced.

In some of the incidents money up to AU$30,000 along with other gifts had been given to voters.

Of the seven MPs that faced the bribery allegations, so far only one has been exonerated, three unseated and three others are yet to know their fate.

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The Tongan electoral laws allow for petitions to be filed after results have been declared to make challenges on the basis of bribery and vote buying allegations.

Moeaki was appointed to Prime Minister Pohiva Tuʻiʻonetoa’s Cabinet as Minister for Trade and Economic Development in the cabinet reshuffle following the resignation of Sione Vuna Fa’otusia in January 2021.

After winning his seat in the November elections, he was appointed to the Cabinet of Siaosi Sovaleni as Minister of Finance and Minister of Revenue and Customs.

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