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Samoa court dismisses 2nd election call — FAST looking to form govt

Samoa Supreme Court bldg
Samoa’s caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa plans to appeal
Sources: RNZ Pacific & Samoa Observer

Apia, SAMOA — Samoa's Supreme Court has thrown out the Head of State's decision to call a second election, clearing the path for the newcomer Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party to form a government.

Announcing the second election earlier this month, Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II told Samoans it was the best way to break the political deadlock that emerged after last month's election.

However, the court on Monday (Samoa time) found that he had no constitutional power to call for the election while outstanding matters relating to April's election were still unresolved.

Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese said while delivering the judgment "that the Head of State does not have the power to call for a fresh election" as he had on May 4th.

"There is no lawful basis for the Head of State calling for a new election on 21 May 2021," said Chief Justice Satiu.

He added that the results from last month's election "continue to be valid and lawful."

But the court found the Head of State acted in what he believed was the best interests for Samoa, and Satiu stressed there was no criticism of his actions.

"Rather this judgment is concerned with the correctness of the advice upon which the Head of State relied, which advice, we say from the outset, was inaccurate," Satiu explained.

His Highness Tuimaleali'ifano acted on the advice of the caretaker prime minister Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi and the Attorney General Savalenoa Mareva Betham-Annandale.

With FAST now holding a 26-25 majority and fresh elections being voided, it is expected that party leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa will seek the recall of parliament so as she can declare a government.

Fiame would become Samoa's first woman prime minister.

New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the potential for this outcome felt significant to her.

"Having been a member of course of the Pacific Islands Forum and those leaders' dialogues, it feels very significant," she added.

"Again, we of course respect within the Pacific the outcomes of any democratically led election but it is certainly a meaningful thing when you see a historic decision made when office is held by a woman."

Meanwhile, FAST's deputy leader has called for the country to rally behind the Supreme Court's decisions.

La'aulialemalietoa Polataivao Schmidt thanked the country for their support and asked them to come together.

"Let us accept this decision with humility and with the spirit of forgiveness," he said.

"We are one family. The Head of State, prime minister we are all family. Let us put our differences behind us and let us look ahead."


In the meantime, Samoa Observer is reporting that Samoa’s caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi and leader of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) pulled a few surprises out of his hat when he announced plans to appeal a ruling delivered by the Supreme Court on Monday. 

Tuilaepa made the announcement when he appeared live on the Government of Samoa Facebook page Monday evening (Samoa time). 

Thousands of viewers tuned in to hear him after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the H.R.P.P.’s political rivals, the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party led by his former Deputy, Fiame Naomi Mataafa. 

The Supreme Court delivered two historic rulings related to the elections on Monday, both in favor of F.A.S.T.

But Tuilaepa announced Monday evening that the party took issue with the court's reasoning on the validity of adding a sixth woman to Parliament and his intention to appeal it. 

In the second court decision, the Supreme Court overruled a declaration by the Head of State voiding the April elections saying he has no legal authority. 

The court has reinstated the results from April's election and ordered Parliament to convene within 45 days from last month's 9 April elections. 

The H.R.P.P filed 19 new election petitions against F.A.S.T. candidates and their leadership just last week Friday, added the Prime Minister. 

The court matters are complicated and the road ahead will be challenging, Tuilaepa said.

There are a total of 75 election petitions pending in the courts, he said.

The H.R.P.P. requested a sit-down with F.A.S.T. leadership and their attorneys however, F.A.S.T. denied the request.

“We tried to talk to them through the usual avenues with our lawyers and their lawyers to find a way to settle these matters outside of the courtroom because we were looking for a way forward but they denied our request. So we will continue with our petitions,” Tuilaepa explained.

He said the court matters must be dealt with in addition to the caretaker government’s responsibilities with COVID-19 and preparing the nation’s budget.

 “When Parliament convenes is when we will discover if we have a new government,” said Tuilaepa.

“May God bless Samoa in these times because we face so many challenges. There is nothing to worry about. The Government moves forward.”

He thanked Samoa, American Samoa and the clergy for their support and especially their prayers. 

Parliament must convene by Monday 24 May, in order to meet the 45 day requirement as declared by Samoa's Constitution.