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Samoa News editorial: Shades of Red, White & Blue

We don’t usually focus on international events at Samoa News since CNN floods our TV screens hourly, with top stories from reporters ‘on-the-ground’ giving more immediate info than a daily newspaper can ever hope to match.

However, in Egypt this week is a story that we think bears some reflection — this weekend’s run-off in their presidential election.

Associated Press reports that the result of the first round of the presidential election held last month saw non-Islamists in a field of 13 candidates win more than half the votes. However, because they split their votes among several of the 13, none of them made the two-person runoff.

The end result will pit Brotherhood figure Mohammed Morsi against Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister on June 16-17 — leaving the young, mostly secular Egyptians who drove the uprising last year with no representative.

They fear a landmark moment for democracy is being lost to established, unimaginative voices.

What are their solutions to this stalemate? That’s for Egypt to decide. But more importantly, what are our solutions to what is shaping up to be a similar situation?

There are five gubernatorial teams running this year in the 2012 General Election for governor and lt. governor — the most American Samoa has seen since it began electing its top two executive positions in local government.

The teams are (in alphabetical order): Afoa & Le’i, Faoa & Taufete’e, Lolo & Lemanu, Save & Sandra and Salu & Savusa. They all have experience in leadership positions, if not locally, certainly through military rank. (There is a 6th governor’s candidate, Tim Jones, but he has not yet named a running mate.)

We are sure each team has their strengths and weaknesses, both personal and political; and looking out at the field, we believe no one can say that any one of them is the ‘joker’ in a deck of cards being dealt by persons or a political group that believe ultimately there will no runoff— and that such a vote would hand a mandate to the winning team to make the changes it wants, with no regard to the community as a whole.

Unfortunately, we do see a prevailing thought — that there will be a runoff, because the five teams (and possibly a sixth) will not be able to garner even close to 50% +1 votes needed to win in the first round without a runoff.

The thought we see manifesting is this: “the first time around is a vote of the heart, the second time (runoff) is a vote for what you believe you can get from the winner.”

The gamble seems to be that you & I, Joe Blow, will vote for a team that will not get into the runoff, and in the end we will have to vote for what is there; or for the team that will make the deal with ‘our’ team; or we will just walk away in disgust. (Unlike Egypt — and the developments there yesterday that some are calling a military coup... mmm…)

That’s scary… because American Samoa is facing real economic problems. There are not enough jobs to maintain the tax base that pays for government services — good or bad — and this includes the hospital, our education system and our power and water services.

If it continues, we will need to leave to find jobs, or we will just need to leave, because our infrastructure cannot be sustained to allow our community to flourish. The majority of us will be living on the good graces of remittances from off-island, while the rest of us will be retirees (mainly from the military).

We will basically be looking at a retirement community that has to go off-island for medical care, but staying to make sure our Samoan lands remain in Samoan hands.

Again the question is— what are our solutions to what is shaping up to be a first round stalemate?

We believe the solutions lie in the information the voters can access.

This season's crop of gubernatorial teams are not running their campaigns in only the traditional manner —  with under the table deals, along aiga lines, and how much you have in your coffers being the deciding factor — at least we don’t think so.

For the first time, who’s got the most money to spend is not the only push going on, and showing thanks for your government job is not the only deciding factor, and your sa’o telling you who to vote for is not the only criteria on our minds.

Instead, teams are walking villages doing clean ups and choosing not to hold official kickoffs because they believe the average voter doesn’t have the money to donate. Teams are being asked by the public to show their platforms beyond their campaign slogan; some are holding intimate public forums to get their message out with special guests being invited to speak of the power of their direction.

Teams are putting together websites, establishing a presence on Facebook, and the youth vote is playing a major role in deciding the flavor of our next government beyond a day at the beach.

It’s all there, laid out for the voter to partake of the feast.

And Samoa News wants to contribute to this feast. We will expand our campaign coverage in light of the changes in campaign styles as we strive to give you the true flavor of this year’s match-ups. Look to our future coverage of the 2012 Campaign Trail in American Samoa.

We won’t pick a winner for you, but we will hopefully be able to provide you a seat at the ‘aina’.

So that in the final moment, when you stand behind that ballot curtain — alone — with only you knowing who you voted for, the decision will be because it’s your vote and it’s an informed vote — red, white & blue and any shade you want it to be.