Saufatu Sopoanga

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The Right Honourable
Saufatu Sopoanga
Prime Minister of Tuvalu
In office
2 August 2002 – 27 August 2004
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Tomasi Puapua
Faimalaga Luka
Preceded by Koloa Talake
Succeeded by Maatia Toafa
Personal details
Born (1952-02-22) 22 February 1952 (age 66)
Nukufetau, Tuvalu

Saufatu Sopoanga, OBE (born 22 February 1952) is a political figure from the Pacific nation of Tuvalu. Sopoanga was the eighth Prime Minister of Tuvalu[1] and a foreign minister of Tuvalu. He is the elder brother of Enele Sopoaga, who was appointed as Prime Minister of Tuvalu in 2013.

There are no political parties in Tuvalu. During his term as prime minister Sapoanga had a shifting alliance of MPs who supported him, and there was also an opposition group against him. Both Sapoanga's group and the opposition group were plagued by defections; a series of by-elections also created uncertainty as to which side would emerge with a parliamentary majority. The survival of his government has been described as resulting from his dexterous handling of the distribution of ministerial and other appointments.[2]

On 26 August 2004, while one of the 15 members of parliament was sick in New Zealand and another had defected from Sapoanga's group, the opposition finally Sapoanga to resign in a no confidence vote, 8–6.[3]


He was born on Nukufetau Atoll.[4]

Sopoanga was a civil servant and from 1997 to 1999 he was Acting Secretary to the government. In the Queen's Birthday Honours, 13 June 1998, he was awarded the Officer in The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his public service and for services to the community.[5] In 2000 he was again acting as Secretary to the government of prime minister Ionatana Ionatana.

He was elected as a member of the Parliament of Tuvalu for the constituency of Nukufetau, Under prime minister Koloa Talake, he served as the minister for finance and economic planning and minister for tourism, trade and commerce.[6]

Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Sopoanga was elected Prime Minister of Tuvalu by the Parliament of Tuvalu on 2 August 2002 after the general election.[7] He also became the foreign minister.[4]

It was expected that Tuvalu would have a period of political stability. However the Sopoanga government lost its majority in May 2003, following the results of the Nanumea by-election, 2003 and the Niutao by-election, 2003.[8] Amasone Kilei, the leader of the opposition, wrote to the governor-general on 10 May 2003 advising that he commanded the support of a majority of the members of parliament and they were ready to form a government. On 20 June 2003 Amasone Kilei commenced and action in the High Court of Tuvalu seeking orders regarding the appointment of a speaker and the calling of parliament. As it happened, the governor-general had, on 19 June, issued a notice for the meeting to elect a speaker. In June 2003 opposition MP Faimalaga Luka became speaker of parliament.[9] However parliament was not called. On 6 August 2003 the Chief Justice of the High Court declined to make a declaration that the prime minister should resign; however the Chief Justice delivered directions as to how the governor-general should proceed to take any action he considers to be appropriate under Section 116(1) of the Constitution of Tuvalu, acting in his own deliberate judgment, rather than as advised by the cabinet.[10] That is, the governor-general could consider whether it was appropriate to exercise his reserve powers in calling parliament.

Sopoanga recalled parliament to meet in September,[11] On 9 September Sopoanga arranged to appoint opposition MP Faimalaga Luka as governor general, depriving the opposition of its crucial one-seat majority and triggering the Nukufetau by-election, 2003. The winner of the October by-election, Elisala Pita, joined the government's benches, enabling it to survive into 2004.[12]

Resignation and subsequent career

The Sopoanga government was eventually brought down by an eight-to-six motion of no confidence in August 2004.[3] Two government members, Elisala Pita and Otinielu Tausi, crossed the floor to vote against Sopoanga.[13] Saufatu Sopoanga resigned as prime minister and member of parliament on 25 August 2004.[14] The Nukufetau by-election, 2004 was held on 7 October and Saufatu Sopoanga regained his seat by a 420-361 vote in his electoral district of Nukufetau. Maatia Toafa was elected prime minister on 11 October 2004 with a vote of 8:7;[15] and Saufatu Sopoanga became deputy prime minister.[14] He was also the minister for communications & transport and minister for works & energy.[14] At the Tuvaluan general election, 2006 he lost his seat in Parliament, and thus also his position in the cabinet.[16][17]

See also

Preceded by
Koloa Talake
Prime Minister of Tuvalu
Succeeded by
Maatia Toafa


  1. ^ Clements, John (2005). Clements' encyclopedia of world governments. Political Research, inc. p. 382. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  2. ^ Paulson Panapa & Jon Fraenkel (2008). "The Loneliness of the Pro-Government Backbencher and the Precariousness of Simple Majority Rule in Tuvalu" (PDF). Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Tuvalu PM loses vote of no-confidence", Agence France-Presse, 26 August 2004
  4. ^ a b East, Roger; Thomas, Richard (5 August 2003). Profiles of people in power: the world's government leaders. Psychology Press. pp. 537–. ISBN 978-1-85743-126-1. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  5. ^ "Eights Supplement" (PDF). The London Gazette. 12 June 1998. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  6. ^ Financing for development: building on Monterrey. United Nations Publications. 2002. pp. 266–. ISBN 978-92-1-104515-4. Retrieved 3 March 2011.
  7. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2002. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  8. ^ Hassall, Graham (2006). "The Tuvalu General Election 2006". Democracy and Elections project, Governance Program, University of the South Pacific. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  9. ^ "Tuvalu has new speaker". Radio New Zealand International. 24 June 2003. Retrieved 30 September 2011.
  10. ^ "Amasone v Attorney General [2003] TVHC 4; Case No 24 of 2003 (6 August 2003)". PACLII. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Tuvalu PM Arranges for Recall of Parliament", Radio Australia, 26 August 2003
  12. ^ "New Member of Parliament in Tuvalu", Radio Australia, 13 October 2003
  13. ^ Taafaki, Tauaasa (2007). "Polynesia in Review: Issues and Events, 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006, Tuvalu". The Contemporary Pacific. 19 (1): 276–286. doi:10.1353/cp.2007.0036. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016.
  14. ^ a b c "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2006. Retrieved 7 March 2013.
  15. ^ "New Tuvalu leader seeks stability". Radio New Zealand. 11 October 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Election Results Bring Changes". Tuvalu News. 3 August 2006.
  17. ^ "Tuvalu elects Apisai Ielemia as new prime minister". Radio New Zealand. 15 August 2006. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
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