Thursday, June 04, 2009

Samoa evicts the opposition

Something I'd missed: over the weekend the Speaker of the Samoan Fono effectively evicted the opposition from the House, disqualifying nine MPs from their seats. Their "crime"? Establishing a new political party to oppose the ruling Human Rights Protection Party. Under Samoa's Electoral Act and Standing Orders, party hopping is forbidden. But these clauses apply only after the Fono has sat. So every election, the HRPP bribes a bunch of opposition members and independents into joining it by offering places in the country's outsized Cabinet (there are 33 ministers and Associate Ministers in the Fono, out of a total of 49 members), and since the deals are all made by the time they are sworn in, its legal. But if a bunch of independents (some of whom were forced into that position by the Speaker's refusal to recognise their party) want to club together to better oppose the government after the first sitting, its is a Crime Against Democracy and they have to be unseated.

And this is how the Human Rights Protection Party has stayed in power for the past twenty years.

Samoa's democracy is sick, and it desperately needs reform. Otherwise, the country will continue on its slow path to being a one-party state, where elections are meaningless.