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Tonga

Parliamentary chaos as MPs guilty of bribery

Tonga’s parliament is in crisis after two members of Parliament were booted from their seats following their conviction in the Supreme Court for bribing voters in last November’s general elections campaign.

Former Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa, and the Minister for Internal Affairs, Sangster Saulala, lost their respective seats in the vote buying scandal involving seven MPs.

Both MPs reportedly gave gifts during the campaign, which involved money up to AU$30,000.

Former Prime Minister Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa (pictured), and the Minister for Internal Affairs, Sangster Saulala, lost their respective seats in the vote buying scandal involving seven MPs. Picture: Twitter

The Parliament of Tonga said this was the outcome of judgements on respective election petitions that were brought against Tuʻiʻonetoa and Saulala, on charges of bribery.

In a statement, the Parliament said that the Legislative Assembly is required under the Electoral Act to unseat the two Members of Parliament from their respective seats in the Assembly, due to their elections having been voided by the Supreme Court.

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“The unseating will be carried out at the Assembly’s meeting to be held on May 16, 2022. Once unseated, the seats in Parliament for Tongatapu 10 and Tongatapu 7 will be vacant,” the statement said.

“The Lord Speaker will then issue writs for election of new Representatives for Tongatapu 10 and Tongatapu 7.

Inside the Parliament of Tonga. Picture: Twitter

“The date for the election of the new Representatives for the two constituencies will be determined by the Electoral Commission in consultation with the Speaker.”

Speaker Lord Fakafanua, received two court certifications on May 2, 2022, which confirmed that the elections in the November 18, 2021 general election of the respective Parliamentary representatives for Tongatapu 10, Pohiva Tuʻiʻonetoa, and Tongatapu 7, Sione Sangster Saulala, have been voided by the Supreme Court of Tonga.

Of the seven cases, one has been exonerated and four others will head to hearing this week.

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