Monday, July 26, 2021

Democracy wins in Samoa

Over three months ago Samoa had an election, in which the people voted out the incumbent Human Rights Protection Party and voted in the opposition FAST Party. The incumbent Human Rights Protection Party ignored the results and clung to power, hoping to get their patsy head of state to call another election they could then fix. But on Friday afternoon, their plan came tumbling down, with the Court of Appeal ruling that FAST was the government, and had been since their impromptu swearing-in ceremony back in May. The ruling left the HRPP with nowhere to legally go - there's no appeal, no wiggle room, and no way even to delay things further using the patsy head of state (he can only act on advice, and advice from the old regime is pretty explicitly no longer valid). And so they've finally blinked: the tyrant Tuilaepa started packing up his office over the weekend, admitted defeat last night, and has just given a concession speech to supporters. The new government will formally take power tomorrow, and parliament is scheduled to finally meet on wednesday.

So there's actually a happy ending: the Samoan judiciary actually stared down an attempted executive coup, and forced the results of elections to be respected. And they managed it because both the former government and the Samoan people had enough respect for the rule of law that any attempt to fire them or retain power in the face of a clear ruling of illegality just wasn't going to stick. And because they didn't have an army to fuck things up or give the regime the option of just ruling by force.

There's still unfinished business though. The FAST government has talked about constitutional amendments to plug the gaps exploited by the HRPP to attempt to cling to power, and there'll probably be a referendum on those at some point (since I don't imagine the HRPP will vote for them). And there needs to be a clearout of regime loyalists. The attorney-general has already said she is resigning, and good riddance - she's destroyed her credibility, utterly poisoned her relationship with the judiciary, and made her position with the new government untenable by being an utter patsy of the HRPP. The head of state also needs to go: the court has been clear that he has repeatedly overstepped the constitutional mark and acting in bad faith throughout this. Though his term expires next year, so if he doesn't resign before then, he can simply not be reappointed. But above all, after this debacle Tuilaepa the tyrant needs to resign from parliament and exit politics forever. And hopefully, there'll be people in his party trying to convince him of that right now.