By-election today determines Telavi govt’s future

By Robert Matau

Fri 28 Jun 2013

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FUNAFUTI, Tuvalu ----- TUVALU heads for a crucial by election this morning where the fate of the current government hangs in a balance.

The Opposition, however, is optimistic about its chances.

Who wins this one seat will decide whether Prime Minister Willie Telavi retains his position or whether Opposition leader Enele Sopoaga walks in to parliament with a new cabinet.  Both sides are currently tied with seven seats each.

Whilst Tuvalu politics is not party base, the Nukufetau Island Community, which supports Sopoaga, has swung its support behind former Fisheries official Pita Elisala, whilst government is pinning its hopes on career schoolteacher Petely Niuatui for the seat. The seat became last December following the death of finance minister Lotoala Metia.

Opposition member Taukelina Finikaso said they were quietly confident of winning the seat and forming the next Government.

“In Tuvalu, politics is really a family thing - the more distinguished career one serves or how well a person has served the community normally determines one’s popularity,” he said.

“It is also about how many times people see you at a function contributing and being part of the society.”

He said two members of the Opposition from Nukulaelae and Nanumaga were already making their way to Funafuti to join the Opposition caucus in cementing their position in anticipation of a favourable result.

Polling started at 8 am and closes at 4pm.

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