Thursday, October 07, 2010

Samoa's elections are not free and fair

Two stories from Samoa over the last few weeks which show that their democracy isn't. First, there's the case of sitting MP Misa Telefoni. Having served as an MP for 22 years, as a Minister, and as Deputy Prime Minister, he apparently decided that he had had enough and wanted to step down. So his village exiled him. Then there's the case of Tuula Kilivi, who plans to stand against Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in his village of Saleapaga. The village chiefs have already decided that Tuilaepa will be their candidate, but they don't think they can stop his opponent from running. But they have a solution for that:

But failed election candidates from Saleapaga have to pay a high price.

“We have a law in our village that if you go in the election and lose, then you must pack your bags and leave the village. And yes, he knows that”, said Sagale.

One of the basic requirements for an election to be considered free and fair is that people are free to run for public office, without fear of retribution. From the above stories, they're pretty clearly not. Instead, village chiefs abuse their power to select candidates, intimidate opponents, and punish those who speak out against the powers-that-be. Its no wonder their government hasn't changed in over twenty years when this goes on.

The net result of this abuse is that Samoa's elections are not free and fair. Instead, they are a mockery of democracy.