|The Right Honourable
|Prime Minister of Tuvalu|
2 August 2002 – 27 August 2004
|Governor General||Tomasi Puapua
|Preceded by||Koloa Talake|
|Succeeded by||Maatia Toafa|
22 February 1952 |
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 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.
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.
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. 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.
Prime Minister of Tuvalu
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. 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. 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. 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, 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.
Resignation and subsequent career
The Sopoanga government was eventually brought down by an eight-to-six motion of no confidence in August 2004. Two government members, Elisala Pita and Otinielu Tausi, crossed the ﬂoor to vote against Sopoanga. Saufatu Sopoanga resigned as prime minister and member of parliament on 25 August 2004. 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; and Saufatu Sopoanga became deputy prime minister. He was also the minister for communications & transport and minister for works & energy. At the Tuvaluan general election, 2006 he lost his seat in Parliament, and thus also his position in the cabinet.
|Prime Minister of Tuvalu
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