A member of the nobility has become the first elected prime minister of Tonga, narrowly defeating the leader of the Pacific island nation’s pro-democracy movement.
Lord Tu’ivakano was elected to the post Tuesday on a 14-12 secret ballot among the 26 members of parliament, all of whom were elected on November 26.
The election marked the end of centuries of monarchic rule in Tonga, where pressure for reform had been building since riots four years ago.
A party led by pro-democracy advocate Akilisa Pohiva holds 12 of the 17 seats that were open to commoners and filled through public balloting in the nation of 100,000 people. But five independent commoners sided in Tuesday’s poll with the chamber’s nine nobles, who were elected by their fellow nobles.
Previous prime ministers were appointed by the king. King George Tupou V remains as the nation’s symbolic head of state.