(November 19, 2017) – The Pacific Islands Forum Election Observer Team to the 2017 Tonga National Parliamentary Elections has concluded its mission in Tonga. The election was held on 16 November 2017.
The Forum Observer Team comprised Mr Wilson Waguk (Team Leader), Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia to Fiji, and Ms Anaseini Senimoli, Director of Operations of the Fijian Elections Office. The Team was supported by Forum Secretariat officials.
The Observer Team deployed to ‘Eua and Tongatapu and observed the opening of polls, polling and counting. The Team observed polling in all constituencies on both Tongatapu and ‘Eua.
The Team also observed the pre-polling environment in Tongatapu. Campaigning was robust and energetic but orderly. On the election proper, from what Team members observed, the election was efficiently and effectively conducted with voters free to cast their votes without intimidation or coercion.
“We are pleased to offer our congratulations to the Tonga Electoral Commission on the successful conduct of the election” said Mr Waguk.
“Even though the Commission had a shorter time to prepare due to the snap elections, we are of the view that the Electoral Commission delivered a free and credible election. We equally recognise the contribution by other Government agencies and the voting public toward the success of the election.
Ms Seniloli added: “Polling officials and police officers in all the stations we visited are to be commended for their professionalism in carrying out their duties. We met police and polling officials who were polite, efficient, and helpful and we were pleased to observe extra care and support being provided to elderly voters and people living with disabilities.”
There were some minor procedural issues observed however, the Team does not believe these were deliberate or affected the results. “The issues we observed were not widespread and did not appear to be systematic or malicious” said Mr Waguk. “These include minor inconsistencies in procedure across the stations we visited.”
Prior to the election the Forum Observer Team undertook joint consultations with the Commonwealth Observer Team and met with a wide range of stakeholders from both within and outside government.
“We want to sincerely thank everyone who took the time to meet with the Observer Teams. We’ll each produce a report of our observations and recommendations for the Government of Tonga and the Tonga Electoral Commission to consider,” Mr Waguk said.
The Forum Team also acknowledged the cooperation and partnership with the Commonwealth Observer Team, led by Ms Margaret Wilson DCNZM, former Speaker of Parliament and Attorney General of New Zealand.
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