Samoa will be heading back to the polls after the most dramatic election in the country’s history left the country deadlocked, with threats of legal action and fears of “diversion” and “trickery”.
The South Pacific nation will vote again on 21 May after the Samoan head of state – a separate position to the country’s prime minister – Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II announced on Tuesday he had revoked the results of the general election held on 9 April.
“I am assured that as head of state, I am able to call fresh elections where after a general election there is no clear majority to call a government and where it is clear that it is in the public interest to do so,” he announced during a press conference.
There has been a continued deadlock in Samoa since the election between the Human Rights Protection Party (HRRP) which has ruled Samoa for 39 years and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) which was founded in June 2020.
The Leader of FAST, who was previously an HRRP MP and deputy prime minister, Fiame Naomi Mataafa has rejected the decision and accused caretaker prime minister and leader of HRPP, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of meddling with the electoral process.
“We denounce this behaviour, and the misuse of resources and public officials to hold on to power. We must follow this process without diversion or trickery,” she said in a press briefing.
The country has been in caretaker state since the dissolution of parliament in March.
The caretaker prime minister Malielegaoi, who is the world’s second-longest serving prime minister, having been in the role for more than 22 years, commended the head of state for his decision to call a fresh election and said that his party leaves the results of the next election “up to the Lord.”
The news has shocked many in the small island nation, still embroiled in petitions from the 9 April elections.
“I’m not happy, I cannot believe this. This is absolute misuse of power,” said Pepe Ioane, a voter from the island of Savai’i. Ioane who voted for a FAST candidate said she should not be made to vote twice.
Samoan media commentator Rudy Bartley said the decision to hold a fresh election is unprecedented.
“With the announcement of fresh elections, Samoa and is now faced with a mammoth task of organising and implementing a national election scheduled to be held in two weeks’ time. In comparison to the last election in April which took five years to prepare and rollout. My question is, can the integrity of such rushed elections be trusted to give a true and honest representation of the peoples choice in deciding on an elected government to represent the people of Samoa.”
The election was the most closely-fought in Samoan history, with both major parties winning 25 seats and one seat falling to an independent who became king- or queen-maker.
The day the independent MP was due to announce which party he was going to support, the prime minister announced the addition of a new female MP to parliament, ostensibly to meet a quota for women in parliament, bringing the number of government MPs to 26.
The independent then threw his support behind the opposition party bringing the totals to a 26/26 deadlock, ironically meaning the government’s decision to appoint a woman to meet the 10% quota prevented the country from having its first ever female prime minister.