Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not taking the hint

Back in June, the Speaker of the Samoan Parliament attempted to unseat nine opposition MPs on the basis that they were planning to form a new political party. The decision was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court on the grounds that there was no actual party yet, but that has not deterred the government. Now they have introduced an Electoral Amendment Bill preventing independent MPs from joining or associating themselves with any organisation with "political aims" during the Parliamentary term. The aim is specifically to prevent those opposition MPs from planning to run under a unified banner in the 2011 elections - in other words, to further tilt the scales in Samoa's stacked political system further towards the ruling Human Rights Protection Party.

This is an explicitly anti-democratic goal. Fortunately, if passed, it is likely to be overturned. Unlike New Zealand, Samoa has constitutional sovereignty with a bill of rights embedded in its constitution as supreme law. And during the earlier case, the Supreme Court dropped some pretty heavy hints that it thought that anti-party-hopping legislation violated the freedom of association affirmed in the Samoan constitution. What worries me is that the HRPP will not care. The current bill is itself an attempt to overturn the court's ruling, and they may very well try to amend the constitution to reinforce their position (in the name of "stability", of course) if defeated again. This is a party with a tremendous sense of entitlement to power, which no longer seems to accept democratic norms. And when that is happening in a close neighbour, it should concern us all.