Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Samoa's women's quota: Have I missed something?

(Narrator voice: Yes, yes I did. See correction at the bottom)

Another election petition was finalised in Samoa today, seeing the first finding of an illegal practice against a FAST candidate (a party roadshow made a customary gift - koha in NZ terms - during a period where these are forbidden). She wasn't disqualified - it was an illegal practice, not a corrupt one - but before I learned that I wondered whether this would affect the operation of Samoa's women's quota. And that rabbit-hole got interesting.

Samoa's constitution requires that a minimum of 10% of parliament be women, with additional MPs appointed if not enough are elected. It has been established by recent court rulings that that (presently) means six women, and that appointments are made after all election petitions and resulting byelections are resolved (and that parliament can sit before that). Section 44(1B) of Samoa's constitution says that the (unsuccessful) candidates with the highest number of votes are appointed. According to the final election results, the top five unsuccessful candidates were:

  • Toomata Norah Leota (FAST) (780 votes)
  • Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana-Gidlow (HRPP) (555 votes)
  • Ali'imalemanu Alofa Tuuau (HRPP) (464 votes)
  • Lolomatauama Eseta Mataituli (FAST) (292 votes)
  • Atuatasi Katifa Bryce (FAST) (244 votes)
(Note that following the resignation of Leota Tima Leavai there are now only four female MPs. There are a bunch of byelections to be determined, which may see women elected or poll well, but on the present numbers, assuming nothing changes that seems to mean Leota and Gidlow would be appointed, with no change in the balance of power).

On 20 April, after these results came out, Samoa's head of state purported to appoint Ali'imalemanu Alofa Tuuau as an additional member. That appointment was later thrown out by the courts, but on the basis that it was made at the wrong time. Meanwhile, I'm left wondering why the third highest-polling unsuccessful candidate was appointed in the first place. Have I missed something?

Correction: And the thing I missed: the clause saying "“Highest number of votes” means the percentage of the total valid votes in a constituency polled by a woman candidate" (which I guess is because Samoan electorates are not equal-sized). So Tuuau has 464 / 1159 votes = 40%, Leota 780 / 2200 votes = 35%, and Gidlow 555 / 1669 votes = 33%, and Tuuau and Leota are first to be appointed if nothing changes.