Constitution of Tonga

Status: National monarchy

Legislature: Parliament of Tonga

Independence: 4 June 1970

Until 2010 the constitution was essentially King George Tupou I’s constitution granted in 1875, under which executive power resided with the monarch.

Under the 2010 constitution, Tonga is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral Legislative Assembly consisting of 26 elected members, nine of whom are elected by and from among the country’s 33 hereditary nobles, and 17 on the basis of universal adult suffrage (women received the vote in 1960) in a general election which must take place at intervals of no longer than 4 years.

The prime minister is chosen by the Legislative Assembly and appointed by the monarch. The prime minister selects his cabinet who are then appointed by the monarch. The prime minister may nominate up to four ministers from outside the Assembly and on appointment they become members of the Assembly.

All land belongs to the Crown. Large estates have been allotted to nobles. By law, every male Tongan at age 16 is entitled to a small piece of agricultural land and a small town plot. In practice, there is not enough land and the majority of men have not been allocated any land, and latterly there have been objections to the exclusion of women. Consequently, reform of the land tenure system has been under discussion.