Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Deadlock in Samoa

Samoa's independent "kingmaker", Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, has finally made his decision, joining the opposition FAST Party. But this doesn't mean they'll be the government, because last night Samoa's electoral commission suddenly decided to create another (HRPP) MP, creating a 26-26 deadlock. The reason for this is that Samoa has a quota for female MPs: a minimum of 10% of parliament must be women. Five women were elected out of 51, giving 9.8%. As the electoral commission points out, 9.8% is less than 10%, so they had to elect another one (specifically Ali'imalemanu Alofa Tuuau, the highest-polling unsuccessful female candidate). That's certainly a legitimate interpretation of the law, but its not what they were saying just a couple of weeks ago, when five women out of 51 was deemed OK, and it looks awfully like the HRPP desperately trying to retain power. If they'd been clear about how the quota would be applied before the results were in, this perception could have been avoided.

Of course, its not over yet: there's still the usual round of election petitions and private prosecutions, plus party hopping before parliament sits. Samoan elections usually see a couple of MPs unseated during this phase, so the final winner will likely be decided by the courts.