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Samoa vote set to make history

Friday 4 March 2016 | Published in Regional

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APIA – Samoa went to the polls yesterday for the country’s general election. Voting opened at 8.00am and was due to stop at 3pm in an election that is regarded as a foregone conclusion.

There are 164 candidates contesting the election – 81 from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party, 23 from the opposition Tautua Samoa Party and 60 independent candidates.

This is the first year women candidates have been guaranteed five of the 49 seats in Parliament, and this year boasts a record 24 women candidates.

One woman candidate, the caretaker Minister of Justice, Fiame Naomi Mataafa has already secured her place in parliament, running unopposed in the Lotofaga constituency.

The caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is among the three other candidates unopposed.

Radio New Zealand’s correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia said the opposition Tautua Samoa party leader, Palusalue Faapo II, faces a tough contest in his constituency.

He said an amendment to the electoral act reduced all constituencies with two seats in parliament to just one seat, – and Palusalue’s ‘Sapata Sifo’ constituency is one them.

“So the current HRPP party member of parliament and caretaker minister of works, Manu’alesagalala Enokati Posala, is now running against the Tautua Samoa Party leader Palusalue Faapo II. Both candidates are very, very strong in their support from the voters.”

Results were expected to start coming in from as early as 4.00pm onwards yesterday afternoon. A liquor ban, put in place to ensure the smooth running of the polls, and to keep the peace, was to remain in place until 6.00am this morning.

Originally, the ban was to begin the day before the vote, but the hotel association, restaurants and bars urged for it to be changed to saying tourism would be affected.

A temporary liquor ban has been imposed for every general election in Samoa.

On the eve of the elections, a prominent academic says the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) would create history if, or rather when, they win again.

The director of the Centre of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa, Leasiolagi Dr Malama Meleisea, said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s HRPP is set to become the longest serving political party in any democracy.

And should they win, Samoa could possibly be looking at another 30 years of HRPP government, with the birth of a new generation of party supporters.

“It’s an interesting issue about the evolution of democracy in our society,” he told the Samoa Observer. “A lot of younger people have never seen anything other than the Human Rights Protection Party and we call them the generation of HRPP.

“It is probably the longest serving political party in any democracy I know of in the world and the longest serving government other than those run by dictators.”

Does that mean Samoa then has become a dictatorship? he was asked.

“It’s become dictatorship of the minority,” Leasiolagi explained. “What that means is that people who are not in power do not have a say or have their opinions heard. There is definitely that element of it when a government or a person is involved for a long time and they become used to it.

“In some cases they become so much attached that they forget the obligation to the minority opinions. That’s why it’s important that even with a government that has been in power for a long time, I hope there will still be an opposition party.”

- PNC sources