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Tongans elect pro-democracy MPs

25 April 08 13:19 GMT

The people of the tiny Pacific island nation of Tonga have backed reformist candidates in the first election since serious unrest in 2006.

Almost 70,000 Tongans cast their votes to choose nine MPs - with pro-democracy candidates winning all of the seats.

Six of those re-elected are still facing charges over the 2006 riots.

Tonga has 33 MPs - nine are elected, 15 chosen by the king, and noble families select the other nine. The king has agreed to make more elected by 2010.

The Kingdom of Tonga is one of the world's last-remaining states to operate an almost feudal system.

The richest man is the monarch, King George Tupou V, and his family and favourites hold sway.

Although the king backs reforms that would see most of the parliament elected by 2010, pro-reform politicians want the changes made earlier.

Sedition charges

In November 2006, there was frustration when it appeared parliament would close before acting on these demands.

Tension spilled over in the streets of the capital, Nuku'alofa.

Gangs targeted businesses run by ethnic Chinese people. Much of the town centre was burned to the ground and eight people were killed.

Australian and New Zealand soldiers flew in to help restore order.

Six of the popularly-elected MPs have been charged with sedition, apparently for instigating the violence.

If they are found guilty, they will not be allowed to serve in parliament.

A state of emergency was imposed after the 2006 riots and is still in place.

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