Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Samoa's dodgy dissolution

Samoa's tied elections took a turn for the worse last night, with the O le Ao o le Malo purporting to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections in what looks awfully like a self-coup. The "justification" for this was the uncertainty created by the hung parliament - a situation the O le Ao o le Malo had created themselves two weeks ago when they controversially appointed an extra MP under a dubious interpretation of the constitution's women's quota clause. That appointment had been challenged in court, and if the legal process had been allowed to take its course, would have worked itself out (as would the uncertainty created by the massive number of electoral petitions, most of which tend to be rapidly dismissed). But the O le Ao o le Malo also questioned the impartiality and independence of the courts, suggesting that he does not trust them to rule the "right" way. In any case, dissolving parliament because no government can be formed before it has even had a chance to sit and vote on the matter seems grossly premature, and gives the impression that this is a desperate attempt by the HRPP to retain power in the face of an electorate which has rejected them.

What will happen next? It is unclear at the moment whether the dissolution will be challenged in court, or even if it can be. But if the HRPP is allowed to get away with this, this may be remembered as the day they took the mask off, and Samoa's de facto one party state became a legal reality.