Politics of Tokelau

Politics of Tokelau

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Politics of Tokelau takes place within a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic dependency. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth in right of her Commonwealth realm of New Zealand, who is represented by an Administrator (as at 2008, David Payton). The monarch is hereditary, the administrator is appointed by the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The head of government is Kuresa Nasau, who presides over the Council for the Ongoing Governance of Tokelau, which functions as a cabinet. The Council consists of the Faipule (leader) and Pulenuku (village mayor) of each of the three atolls. The office of head of government rotates between the three Faipule for a one-year term.[1]


The Tokelau Amendment Act of 1996 confers legislative power on the General Fono, a unicameral body. The number of seats each atoll receives in the Fono is determined by population — Fakaofo and Atafu each have eight and Nukunonu has seven.[1] Faipule and Pukenuku (atoll leaders and village mayors) also sit in the Fono.[1]


On 11 November 2004, Tokelau and New Zealand took steps to formulate a treaty that would transform Tokelau from a New Zealand territory to an entity that is in free association with New Zealand. Besides drafting a treaty, a UN sponsored "act of self-determination" had to take place. The referendum, supervised by the UN, started on 11 February 2006 and finished on 15 February 2006. Although a 60% majority voted in favour of the proposal, a two-thirds majority was required for the referendum to succeed, so Tokelau remained a New Zealand territory. In June 2006, Kolouei O'Brien announced that the Fono had agreed to hold another referendum.[2] This second referendum took place between 20 and 24 October 2007 and again fell short of the two-thirds majority required for independence, by 16 votes, at 446 votes in favour and 246 against.[3]

In all the United Nations-sponsored efforts to give Tokelauans the self-government which they have more than once failed to endorse, the assumption has seemed to be that the proponents of those who lost the vote have the right for the vote to be repeated with a view to reversing the verdict but, that once self-government were achieved, this could never be reversed. Supporters of this view can argue that it is consistent with their vision of ideological purity;[specify] the current New Zealand government is associated with such a view.[citation needed] Sceptics can argue that one-sided attempts to repeat the vote are inconsistent with both supposed respect for the expressed wishes of Tokelauans, with the heritage of balanced constitutional government and with practical politics: some of these sentiments have been expressed by Tokelau's former Head of Government, Patuki Isaako.[4][5]

In April 2008, speaking as leader of the National Party, future New Zealand Prime Minister John Key stated that New Zealand had "imposed two referenda on the people of the Tokelau Islands", and questioned "the accepted wisdom that small states should undergo a de-colonisation process".[6]

Latest elections

e • d Summary of the 17–19 January 2008 Parliament of Tokelau election results
Members Seats
Independents 20
Total 20
Source: kriss.net

Past elections and referendums

See also

  • Electoral system


  1. ^ a b c Tokelauan Council of Ongoing Governance - Governance of Tokelau
  2. ^ "Tokelau referendum dates for late October". Radio New Zealand International. 4 July 2007. http://www.rnzi.com/pages/news.php?op=read&id=33428. Retrieved 3 November 2011. 
  3. ^ Ben Cahoon. "Tokelau". World Statesmen. http://www.worldstatesmen.org/Tokelau.html. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  4. ^ "Tokeleau wonders, ‘What have we done wrong?’". Agence France-Presse. 2004-06-06. http://archives.pireport.org/archive/2004/june/06-02-fea.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-25. "The Ulu, or Head of Tokelau, Patuki Isaako, said that when he was told to attend, his immediate thought was, 'what have we done wrong?' He went on to say, 'One can argue that Tokelau is one of the most intensively consulted populace in the world in which children, men, women and even the elderly participate'. The UN, through its Special Committee on Decolonization, also known as C-24, after the number of its members, is anxious to rid the world of the last remaining vestiges of colonialism by the end of the decade. It has a list of 16 territories around the world, virtually none of which wants to be independent to any degree. These include remote Pitcairn Island, with around 60 British subjects, and the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, which not only wants to remain British, but London fought Argentina for in 1982. Others, like American Samoa and Guam, actively reject any involvement with C-24, while French Polynesia is not even on the list. New Zealand, which made an international issue of French colonialism in New Caledonia, has however become embarrassed over finding itself on the C-24 list. Tokelau, north of Samoa, has thus been put on the track to some kind of autonomy, despite the atolls having no airport or harbor and, Isaako notes, few financial reserves and minimal revenue generating capacity.'" 
  5. ^ "Address by Ulu of Tokelau, Patuki Isaako, 17 June 2004". Statements and Speeches by Ministry Representatives 2004. New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 2007-01-25. Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. http://web.archive.org/web/20071025013039/http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Media-and-publications/Media/MFAT-speeches/2004/0-17-June-2004a.php. Retrieved 2007-12-25. "To the Administrator of Tokelau, Mr Neil Walter, please convey once more to the Government of New Zealand our warm and deepest appreciation for the ongoing support - both materially and morally. It is not the people of Tokelau's deliberate intention to keep New Zealand under the dark shadow of a so-called colonial power. For Tokelau, nothing could be further from the truth and great progress has been made to reach full self-government. We find ourselves caught in a net - the mesh of which is not of our own making. Our feelings about New Zealand are akin to freeing ourselves from that mesh. We are free to make our own choices, make our own decisions, run our own affairs and look after ourselves to the greatest extent possible - knowing that in the long run Tokelau will not be cast adrift by New Zealand - the net will still be there - even after the great fish is caught! Manuia!" 
  6. ^ John Key's speech to the NZ Institute of International Affairs, April 8, 2008

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