Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (487.03 kB)

Democratic Transition in the Development Context: The Case Study of Tonga

Download (487.03 kB)
posted on 2021-11-14, 12:35 authored by Osborne, Jonathan B.

In 2010 the Kingdom of Tonga experienced a democratic transition that saw the balance of power shift from a hereditary monarchy to the people. Elections were held that for the first time would result in a majority of Tonga’s Parliament comprising of democratically-elected politicians. Parliament was given the responsibility of nominating a Prime Minister from amongst its own ranks, who would in turn became responsible for nominating the Cabinet. These powers were formerly held by Tonga’s hereditary monarchy, whose role was reduced to one more akin to that performed by the modern monarchs of Europe. Since the 1960s, Tonga has received an increasing amount of overseas aid, especially from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and, latterly, China. Historically, donors have not been overtly concerned with issues of democracy in developing countries, instead relying on the modernist notion that economic development would lead to democratic development. Since the 1980s, however, donors have become increasingly interested in the issue of democracy in developing countries, as a result of the good governance agenda and its successor paradigm, the aid effectiveness agenda. This thesis explores the impact of donors on Tonga’s 2010 democratic transition, concluding that the effect of donors manifested in a variety of direct and indirect ways. A retrospective analysis identifies aspects of Tonga’s 2010 democratic transition that could have been improved, and actions that donors should consider taking if faced with similar circumstances in the future. Finally, the thesis considers how donors can assist the consolidation of Tongan democracy, concluding that support should be targeted towards sustainable economic development, the rule of law, and the public service.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Murray, Warwick