King of Tonga Dies

Posted March 18th, 2012 at 10:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Tonga's prime minister has announced the death of the Pacific island nation's King George Tupou V.

Prime Minister Lord Tu'ivakano says the 63-year-old monarch died Sunday in a Hong Kong hospital, with his younger brother and heir to the throne, Crown Prince Tupouto'a Lavaka, at his side.

King Tupou, known to the outside world for eccentricities such as being driven around in a London taxi, will be remembered by his subjects for introducing democracy to the nation of 100,000 people. He was sworn in as king in September 2006 following the death of his father, King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

In November 2010, the Polynesian nation held its first direct elections, which marked the end of centuries of monarchic rule in Tonga. In December, the newly elected parliament confirmed Lord Tu'ivakano as the country's first elected prime minister.

Previous prime ministers were appointed by the king.