Tonga Government and Politics

State and politics


Tonga is a constitutional hereditary monarchy.For a long time it was an absolute monarchy where the king and a number of noble families controlled the country. After the criticism of the royal power increased during the 1990s, democratic reforms were carried out in 2010, after major constitutional changes. The executive power was completely transferred to the government, which is solely responsible for the partially elected parliament which establishes the country’s laws and appoints the prime minister. Parliament (fale alea) has 26 seats, 17 of which are elected and nine reserved for the noble families. In addition, the prime minister can appoint four members from among his ministers, which means that the parliament can have a maximum of 30 members. Prior to 2010, only nine members were elected.

The king is still head of state and commander-in-chief. The king is also entitled to dissolve parliament and veto bills. The current king, Tupou VI (born 1959), took office in 2012 after the death of his representative and brother, George Tupou V (1948–2012). Of the six monarchs who have sat on the throne since 1845, five have been kings; In 1918–65, Queen Salote Tupou III (1900–65) ruled.


What is considered to be the country’s first democratic elections was held in 2010. Defeated, the newly formed Party made the Democratic Party of Friendly Islands (DPFI), which occupied twelve of the 17 electoral seats in parliament. Despite the DPFI’s election victory, the nobility managed to seize the Prime Minister’s post after being supported by the five independent MPs.  Also see AbbreviationFinder for abbreviation of TO and its meanings of Tonga.

In the 2014 elections, the DPFI backed and received eight seats, but in spite of this, Parliament elected the DPFI’s founder ‘Akilisi Pohiva (1941–2019) as prime minister. In 2017, a statement of confidence was raised against Pohiva, but a majority of MPs voted for continued confidence in the Prime Minister. Later that year, King Tupou VI dissolved the parliament and announced new elections. According to the Speaker of Parliament, Pohiva had exceeded his powers and the government had failed to respect the constitution. In the November 2017 elections, DPFI strengthened its position, receiving 14 of the 17 electoral seats. Pohiva was then re-elected to the post of head of government. After the election, Parliament had a total of 28 members, of which two (7 percent) were women.


The legal order in Tonga is greatly influenced by English, but the right to land and partly also family relationships are governed by codified domestic custom. The judiciary consists of magistrates’ courts, the Land Court, the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal. The death penalty remains in the penal code but is de facto abolished in 1982.


1845-93 King George Tupou I
1893-1918 King George Tupou II
1918-65 Queen Salote Tupou III
1965-2006 Kung Taufa’ahau Tupou IV
2006-12 King George Tupou V
2012- Kung Tupou VI

Tonga Head of Government

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