Tonga king to give up his power

Tonga’s King George Tupou V is to give up much of his power.

The monarch – who became king in September 2006 after the death of his father, Tupou IV and is due to be formally enthroned on Friday (01.08.08) – has decided to surrender his role in day-to-day government.

The move will bring an end to the near-absolute power the king’s family has enjoyed for generations.

The monarchy has been promising democratic reforms in the country for years, but the process has been slow causing widespread public unrest.

Lord Chamberlain and royal spokesman Hon Fielakepa said: “The Sovereign of the only Polynesian kingdom is voluntarily surrendering his powers to meet the democratic aspirations of many of his people.”

He added the king has made the changes in preparation for 2010 when most of the country’s new government will be elected.

The king has already sold many of the state assets which contributed to his family’s wealth.

Pressure for change in the South Pacific nation reached boiling point in 2006, when a pro-democracy rally in the capital Nuku’alofa descended into a riot.

Eight people were killed and the city was left in ruins, prompting the coronation of King George to be delayed.