WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The king of the small Pacific nation of Tonga on Friday took the extraordinary step of dissolving the nation’s parliament and ordering new elections.
Although the government was facing difficulties, the action took many Tongans by surprise. It came after the parliament had closed for the week and was not accompanied by any announcement or explanation by King Tupou VI.
“I think he’s had enough of what’s going on,” said lawmaker Samiu Vaipulu.
The king ordered a new election be held by Nov. 16 in a dissolution notice posted Friday afternoon on the attorney general’s website. The king holds the power to dissolve the government under Tonga’s constitution.
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The action means the end of the government led by Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva, whose term was due to end next year.
The former schoolteacher is a longtime democracy activist and was first elected to the parliament in 1987. Since becoming leader in 2014, his effectiveness has been questioned and he survived a no-confidence vote earlier this year.
Pohiva announced in May that Tonga would no longer host the Pacific Games in 2019 because the nation couldn’t afford the expense. Some questioned why the government continued to collect money from levies and taxes intended to raise funds for the games.
Vaipulu said there have been a number of problems around the budget.
“We’ve been run by a show of hands, not a show of law,” he said.
He said he wasn’t worried that the political instability could result in violence as it did back in 2006, when rioters sacked the capital, Nuku’alofa. Vaipulu said people understood what was going on and that there would be new elections.
“Right now we are drinking some kava,” he said, referring to a local beverage. “It’s Friday night and there’s a lot of kava, and I think there’s nothing to worry about.”
New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement that it was monitoring events closely and hoped the situation in Tonga remained calm.
Tonga is an archipelago located between New Zealand and Hawaii and is home to about 100,000 people.