Tongans vote in historic polls

For the first time, the majority of the country’s MPs will be elected by the people rather than appointed by the king.

Tonga election

Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Scawen reports from Nuku’alofa

Voting is under way in Tonga, where residents are casting their ballots for their first popularly elected parliament.

Thursday’s election, which marks the Pacific nation’s transition from monarchy to democracy, has the support of the country’s king.

Previously the parliament was dominated by politicians selected by King George Tupou V, who also picked the prime minister and cabinet.

Under the new political system, Tonga will have a 26-seat parliament with 17 elected members and nine nobles appointed by the king.

The move towards democracy follows riots in the capital Nuku’alofa in November 2006, when youths took to the streets protesting the slow pace of political reform, leaving eight people dead and swathes of the city centre burning.

About 42,000 people in the nation of 123,000 are registered to vote in this year’s poll.

Source: Al Jazeera