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Legal challenge against call for second Samoan election will go forward

Samoa Supreme Court bldg
Source: RNZ Pacific

Apia, SAMOA — The chief justice in Samoa has rejected an attempt to delay a challenge to the legality of a second election.

The Head of State last week called for a second election as a way to break a month-long deadlock between the caretaker Human Rights Protection Party government and the newcomer FAST party, that has prevented a new government being formed.

The move toward a second election came after advice from the caretaker prime minister, after no clear winner arose from the country's election last month.

The FAST party has called the move toward a second election unconstitutional, and filed a challenge in the Supreme Court seeking to have the head of state's decision thrown out.

The attorney general had asked for that challenge to be delayed until next week, to allow a New Zealand Queen's Counsel to join the legal team.

But chief justice Satiu Simativa Perese refused the request, saying any delay would run too close to the date planned for the election, next Friday 21 May.

The New Zealand constitutional expert would still be called to deliver expert advice to the court, but will do that via video link.

Following the hearing, the Supreme Court's decision on the May election is expected on Friday 14 May.

If the May election does go ahead, it will void the need to hear the 28 electoral petitions that have been lodged, and all counter-petitions. However, if it does not, the first six of those petitions have been set down to be heard in the Supreme Court over two weeks, from Monday 31 May.

The FAST party won the majority of seats in the election, but were unable to announce their intention to form a majority government before the creation of a new women's seat was announced, at the instruction of the Electoral Commissioner.

The new seat is an unelected appointment, and went to HRPP, but its legality has been disputed by FAST, with that challenge expected to be heard on Monday 17 May.

HRPP is already in full swing campaigning for the second election, but by contrast little election material and campaigning has been seen from the FAST party.