New Premier may well be Dalton Tagelagi!
When the island’s elected representatives gather tomorrow at the Fale Fono on Wednesday 10 June (Niue Time) for the first sitting of the 17th Niue Assembly, the expectation is that they will elect the Assemblyman for Alofi South 52 year old Dalton Tagelagi to be Premier, the 6th since self-government in 1974. Based on an estimate of numbers he will likely win, but this is Niue politics. It is not over until the vote is counted.
The electorate had been made to wait for several days while the key players try to form a government. The time taken to form a government is an indication of the intensity of the negotiations.
In these elections the results were such that neither faction had a clear comfortable majority. The electorate however had decided that the message contained in the election of five new village seat members and two common roll members was a clear enough; time to see some changes.
Those who supported the former government were mainly from village constituencies. With five new MPs though, it took a day or two for them to decide if they were to follow in the footsteps of their predecessors or not. When the dust settled, it became clear that the former government caucus had eleven members, enough for them to act.
At that stage the two former cabinet ministers of Pokotoa Sipeli and Dalton Tagelagi could have quite easily pushed to elect the Premier and leave the selection of Ministers and associates for further negotiations. With former minister and potential leader Billy Talagi out of the picture, the next in line for leadership is Dalton Tagelagi. Subsequent events were to confirm that. They failed to make that decision and in doing so, allowed too much time for the rank and file to wheel and deal. It also gave time for the group led by Mrs O’love Tauveve Jacobsen to consolidate their position.
For the Tagelagi group, the procrastination that followed was both predictable and inevitable and reflected the darker side of Niue politics. Behind closed doors and away from the public gaze the negotiations were a predictable circus with old members threatening to walk-out if they didn’t get their way. Deals agreed upon for the best interest of the island were discarded in appeasement of someone’s warped sense of loyalty. Even the ancient north and south rivalry was allowed to rear its ugly head. And for the newcomers, well they had a front row seat in a master class of entitlement, of privilege and of seniority.
That entire shenanigan though should not detract from the simple fact that if elected the new government will be facing formidable challenges. The tourism industry has collapsed and with it a significant source of government revenue. The national coffers are drying up and government is facing a deficit.
For the longer term, the attention is going to be on the policies and direction that the new government will take and whether it will come up with its own blueprint or it will simply follow that of the former government. The hope is that the new government with the help of its local advisors will take the bold move and discard those policies that are not working and improve on those that are delivering as expected.
For the time being the message from the island to any new government is clear enough; it is time to make some changes. How it plans to do that should be clear enough in the next 100 days.
We wish the nominees well in their quest to lead the country.