No dates set yet for Tuvalu by-election

No date has been set for a by-election for the vacant Nukufetau Island seat on Tuvalu.
The seat was left vacant following the death of finance minister Lotoala Metia in Suva in December last year.
Secretary to Government Panapasi Nelesoni told ISLANDS BUSINESS their lawyers were still working on details including when it will be held. The Tuvalu constitution gives the government of the day the power to decide when to hold the by-election.

The Nukufetau constituency has been a hot spot for Tuvalu elections since 2011 when Metia’s constituents from Nukufetau demanded for his resignation in a peaceful protest on the island. Members of the powerful council of elders or Falekaupule from his island wanted to meet Metia to persuade him to reconsider his allegiance to Prime Minister Willie Telavi in a move that would have shifted power from Telavi to Metia’s fellow Nukufetau MP Enele Sopoaga and the opposition group.

Since Telavi took over government in 2010 there have been two deaths in his cabinet.

The first being minister Isaia Italeli who died in July of the same year attending a meeting in Samoa.

He was succeeded by his wife Pelenike Isaia who beat Opposition favourite Leneuoti Matusi in a by-election by 62 votes to hand back the majority of 8 seats to Telavi, as opposed to the Opposition’s 7. This was then followed by the death of Metia.

Telavi’s camp is hoping the by-election will give them the numbers to retain power.

With another minister recovering from an illness while on duty in Cuba, the government now has equal number of seats with the opposition in parliament.

Opposition parliamentarian Taukelina Finikaso says it looks like the delay in announcing the by-election date is deliberate to try to ensure their (government) numbers are intact.

He also claimed that a number of projects on Nukufetau has been stopped by government including a water supply project that would address water problems for the villagers.

“Now that the elders of the island are clearly not going to support a government-backed candidate they have put a stop to all projects,” Finikaso claimed.

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