A government committee has recommended that all lawmakers in Tonga be elected, replacing a system in which the majority of legislators are appointed by the king.
The recommendation is a significant step in the accelerating efforts to reform the kingdom's political system since the recent death of King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV after more than 40 years in power.
The National Committee for Political Reform, a government-appointed body, said in recommendations made to Parliament late Thursday that all 32 members of the legislature should be elected, instead of the current nine.
Currently, 23 lawmakers are approved by the king.
The committee recommended that the king keep the power to appoint the prime minister, who would in turn appoint Cabinet members from among the democratically elected lawmakers, said committee chairman Sitiveni Halapua.
While a majority of Tongans respect the monarchy and want their traditional social hierarchy to remain intact, "there must be changes to the structure of government and how government is administered," the committee said its report to Parliament.
The committee was established after a number of pro-democracy protests and strikes by thousands of public servants that paralyzed the capital last year.
Its report comes less than a month after the death of Taufa'ahau Tupou IV, who ruled for 41 years and began cautious moves toward reforms, but who also became increasingly autocratic in his final years.
Tonga's new king, Siaosi Tupou V, gave strong backing to the committee's work when he was the Crown Prince. Most Tongans believe the report will help initiate reforms in their homeland.
Tonga, a nation of 114,000 people, is bordering on bankruptcy. It faces mounting poverty and youth unemployment, and relies heavily on money remitted from its citizens living abroad and on aid funds.
The committee's remaining recommendations are to be presented to Parliament next week.