Since independence in 1970, Tonga has been a unified
state monarchy within the Commonwealth, the only monarchy in
the Pacific. The form of government dates back to 1875; it
is to some extent democratized in recent times, but the king
is still the real leader. He heads the government, the
Privy Council, and has placed close relatives in key
positions. In addition to the king, the council has twelve
life-long ministers, including the prime minister, and the
governors of Ha'apai and Vava'u. The Council has a certain
legislative authority, but it is mainly in the National
Assembly. It is called Fale Alea, elected for three
years and has 32 members; the government (12), the two
governors, nine nobles, elected by Tonga's 33 noble
families, and nine representatives elected in the general
The judiciary comprises the Supreme Court, the Court of
Appeal and, as the first instance, eight magistrates'
courts. The Supreme Court chairman chairs the appeals court,
which otherwise includes three judges from other
Commonwealth countries. Prosecutors in criminal cases and
the parties in civil cases can ask a jury when cases are
pending in the Supreme Court. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how TO can stand for Tonga.
Weights and Measures
Dimensions and weight are British and metric.
Tonga has volunteer military service. The country has a
total workforce of about 500 personnel. The forces are
easily equipped. Tonga has a small navy operating patrol
boats, and a small air component. The country cooperates
closely with Australia in defense matters.