Government of Tonga: Branches, Military and International Issues

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Tonga is a constitutional monarchy. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Names of the Country: Official Name: Kingdom of Tonga; conventional short form: Tonga; local long form: Pule'anga Fakatu'i 'o Tonga; local short form: Tonga; Former name: Friendly Islands. Source of the Name: "tonga" means "south" in the Tongan language and refers to the country's geographic position in relation to central Polynesia. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Capital: Nuku'alofa: Geographic Coordinates: 21 08 S, 175 12 W. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Administrative Divisions: 5 island divisions; 'Eua, Ha'apai, Ongo Niua, Tongatapu, Vava'u. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Independence: 4 June 1970 (from UK protectorate status). National Holiday: Official Birthday of King TUPOU VI, 4 July (1959); the actual birthday of the monarch is 12 July 1959, 4 July (2015) is the day the king was crowned; Constitution Day (National Day), 4 November (1875). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

National Symbols of Tonga

Flag: red with a bold red cross on a white rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner; the cross reflects the deep-rooted Christianity in Tonga, red represents the blood of Christ and his sacrifice, and white signifies purity. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

National Symbols: Coat of arms of the Kingdom of Tonga: red cross on white field, arms equal length; national colors: red, white

National Anthem: name: "Ko e fasi o e tu"i o e `Otu Tonga" (Song of the King of the Tonga Islands), lyrics/music: Uelingatoni Ngu TUPOUMALOHI/Karl Gustavus SCHMITT. In use since 1875; more commonly known as "Fasi Fakafonua" (National Song)

Constitution and Legal System of Tonga

Constitution: adopted 4 November 1875, revised 1988, 2016. Amendments: proposed by the Legislative Assembly; passage requires approval by the Assembly in each of three readings, the unanimous approval of the Privy Council (a high-level advisory body to the monarch), the Cabinet, and assent to by the monarch; revised 1988; amended many times, last in 2013. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Legal System: English common law. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

International Law Organization Participation: has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Citizenship: Citizenship by Birth: no; Citizenship by Descent Only: the father must be a citizen of Tonga; if a child is born out of wedlock, the mother must be a citizen of Tonga; Dual Citizenship Recognized: yes; Residency Requirement for Naturalization: 5 years. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Executive Branch of Tonga

Chief of State: King TUPOU VI (since 18 March 2012); Heir Apparent Crown Prince Siaosi Manumataogo 'Alaivahamama'o 'Ahoeitu Konstantin Tuku'aho, son of the king (born 17 September 1985); On 18 March 2012, King George TUPOU V died and his brother, Crown Prince TUPOUTO'A Lavaka, assumed the throne as TUPOU VI

Head of Government: Prime Minister Siaosi SOVALENI (since 27 December 2021). [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Cabinet: Cabinet nominated by the prime minister and appointed by the monarch. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Executive Branch Elections and Appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister and deputy prime minister indirectly elected by the Legislative Assembly and appointed by the monarch; election last held on 18 November 2021 (next to be held in November 2025)

Results of the Last Election: Siaosi SOVALENI elected prime minister by the Legislative Assembly; Siaosi SOVALENI 16 votes, Aisake EKE 10. A Privy Council advises the monarch. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Legislative Branch of Tonga

Tonga has a unicameral Legislative Assembly or Fale Alea (30 seats statutory, 27 current); 17 people's representatives directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote, and 9 indirectly elected by hereditary leaders; members serve 4-year terms)

The last legislative election was held on 18 November 2021 (next to be held in November 2025)

Results of the Last Legislative Election: percent of vote: NA; seats by party (elected members): independents 11, nobles' representatives 9, Democratic Party 3, Peoples Party 3; composition: men 26, women 1, percent of women 3.7 percent

Judicial Branch of Tonga

Highest Court: Court of Appeal (consists of the court president and a number of judges determined by the monarch); note: appeals beyond the Court of Appeal are brought before the King in Privy Council, the monarch's advisory organ that has both judicial and legislative powers

Judge Selection and Term of Office for the Highest Court: judge appointments and tenures made by the King in Privy Council and subject to consent of the Legislative Assembly. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

Subordinate Courts: Supreme Court; Magistrates' Courts; Land Courts

Elections and Political Parties in Tonga

Voting Age: 21 years of age; universal. [Source: CIA World Factbook 2023]

The last legislative election was held on 18 November 2021 (next to be held in November 2025). See Executive and Legislative Braches Above.

Political Parties: Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands or DPFI or PTOA led by Semisi SIKA
People's Democratic Party or PDP led by Tesina FUKO
Tonga Democratic Labor Party led by vacant
Tonga Human Rights and Democracy Movement or HRDM led by 'Uliti UATA
Tonga People's Party or PAK or TPPI (Paati ʻa e Kakai ʻo Tonga) led by Pohiva TU'I'ONETOA (split from Democratic Party of the Friendly Islands). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Government Spending, Taxes and Revenues

Government Budget: revenues: $212 million (2019 estimate)
expenditures: $196 million (2019 estimate)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 0 percent (of GDP) (2017 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 44. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Public Debt: 51.8 percent of GDP (FY2016 estimate)
49.41 percent of GDP (2016 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 107. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Taxes: 39.8 percent (of GDP) (2017 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 12. [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military of Tonga

Military and Security Forces: His Majesty's Armed Forces Tonga (aka Tonga Defense Services): Joint Force headquarters, Tonga Royal Guard, Land Force (Royal Tongan Marines), Tonga Navy, Training Wing, Air Wing, and Support Unit; Ministry of Police and Fire Services: Tonga Police Force (2023)[Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military Expenditures: 2.1 percent of GDP (2020 estimate)
2.4 percent of GDP (2019 estimate)
1.5 percent of GDP (2018 estimate)
2.1 percent of GDP (2017 estimate)
1.7 percent of GDP (2016 estimate); ranking compared to other countries in the world: 52[Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

Military Personnel: approximately 650 personnel (2022). Military Service: voluntary military service for men and women 18-25 (16 with parental approval for non-combat positions); no conscription (2022)

Military Equipment: the Tonga military's inventory includes mostly light weapons and equipment from Australia, European countries (primarily the UK), and the U.S. (2022). [Source: CIA World Factbook, 2023]

The HMAF’s primary missions are protecting the King and Tonga’s sovereignty; the HMAF has also contributed small numbers of personnel to multinational military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Solomon Islands; it is a small force comprised of a royal guard company, a marine battalion, and a few naval patrol boats

Tonga participated in World War I as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, but the Tonga Defense Force (TDF) was not established until 1939 at the beginning of World War II; in 1943, New Zealand helped train about 2,000 Tongan troops who saw action in the Solomon Islands; the TDF was disbanded at the end of the war, but was reactivated in 1946 as the Tonga Defense Services (TDS); in 2013, the name of the TDS was changed to His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga (HMAF); Tongan troops deployed to Iraq from 2004-2008 and Afghanistan to support UK forces from 2010-2014

International Relations of Tonga

International Disputes: Tonga-Fiji: Fiji does not recognize Tonga’s 1972 claim to the Minerva Reefs and their surrounding waters; the Minerva Reefs’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone includes valuable fishing grounds

Tonga has a "shiprider" agreement with the US, which allows local maritime law enforcement officers to embark on US Coast Guard (USCG) and US Navy (USN) vessels, including to board and search vessels suspected of violating laws or regulations within Tonga's designated exclusive economic zone (EEZ) or on the high seas; "shiprider" agreements also enable USCG personnel and USN vessels with embarked USCG law enforcement personnel to work with host nations to protect critical regional resources (2023)

International Organization That It Participates In: ACP, ADB, AOSIS, C, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IPU, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), OPCW, PIF, Sparteca, SPC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Image Sources:

Text Sources: CIA World Factbook, 2023; “Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Volume 2: Oceania,” edited by Terence E. Hays, 1991, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated August 2023

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