What Reform? Reform Stories in the Kingdom of Tonga
What is the likelihood that the Kingdom of Tonga will go to a general election in 2014 and the same pool of leaders, middle-aged and older men, will get voted back to parliament? For the small island developing state of Tonga that has a population of 104,509 thousand, the Legislative Assembly is elected every four years. Comprising of seventeen people’s representatives voted in by constituencies of registered voters on the general roll, and nine nobles’ representatives voted in by the landed gentry of thirty three estate holders, historically, parliament is overpoweringly men. Tongan society’s patriarchal structure and the widespread practice of Christianity as the state religion, has led to the prevalence of male political leaders being accepted as symbolic of culture.
What outside forces dismantle cultural constraints in an island Kingdom? Reform is said to be at work, stirred by Tonga’s 2010 shift to a democratised state. Parliamentary representatives from the people now outnumber the nobility. So who are the reformers? Is there resistance against free market trade because farmers and fishermen have less access to business? And how do New Zealand’s economic reform policies effect change for this small island nation?