Polls close in Tonga election

 Tongans went to the polls Thursday for only the second time since commoners have been able to elect the majority of MPs in the Pacific kingdom, amid calls for a more dynamic parliament. 

Nuku`alofa: Tongans went to the polls Thursday for only the second time since commoners have been able to elect the majority of MPs in the Pacific kingdom, amid calls for a more dynamic parliament. 

Although it could be some days before completed results are returned from outlying islands, electoral officials said the shape of the new government would be evident late Thursday night. 

Analysts have predicted the election will produce a number of new faces as Tongans weigh up the impact of the first four years of a democratically elected government.

In an editorial ahead of the election, the Matangi Tonga website said the island nation needed a government that could "save the country from its current economic downward spiral".

"The more democratic system of government was implemented with the conviction that it would provide answers to our economic, political and social problems ... (but) Tonga remains worse off than we were four years ago."

Electoral Commission chairman Barrie Sweetman said more than 51,000 Tongans were registered to vote with 105 candidates -- 38 fewer than the last election in 2010 -- contesting the 17 seats set aside for people`s representatives. 

The kingdom`s nobility, who had a stranglehold on running the country prior to 2010, will elect the other nine members of the 26-seat parliament.

It was confirmed soon after voting closed at 4:00 pm (0300 GMT) that the nobles had re-elected the Prime Minister, Lord Tu`ivakanoto.