Monday, April 12, 2021

Change coming to Samoa?

Samoans went to the polls on Friday, and delivered a stinging blow to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi one-party state. Pre-election Malielegaoi's Human Rights Protection Party had controlled 44 of 49 seats in Parliament, while using restrictive standing orders to prevent there from even being a recognised opposition in Parliament. But voters clearly wanted something different, and left Malielegaoi with a hung parliament, tied 25-25 with the new opposition FAST party (led by his former deputy Fiame Naomi Mata'afa), with one independent holding the balance of power. Which means this may be the first time in nearly 40 years that power in Samoa has changed hands as the result of an election.

These are only preliminary results of course, and the final count could shift things a bit. Not to mention the usual series of electoral petitions, private prosecutions for bribery, and party-hopping (which is strictly illegal during the parliamentary term, but entirely legal between its dissolution and when it sits - something exploited in the past by the HRPP to buy support and retain power). But even then, to go from utter domination to a bare tie is a stinging rebuke, which in a normal democracy would result in some sort of change. And whoever comes out as the winner is likely to have a tiny majority, and be highly vulnerable to MPs rebelling, forcing a by-election, or just dying of old age. Which is going to be rather different from the current situation of the PM decides something and everyone has to back it or be sacked from parliament by him.