Samoa to hold general elections

Samoans will head to the polls today to elect the 50 representatives of its parliament, known as Fono, for five-year

Samoa, Polynesia

Photo: Associated Press

Samoans will head to the polls today to elect the 50 representatives of its parliament, known as Fono, for five-year terms.

Participating are the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPR), the opposition Tautua party and two minor parties. HRPR has ruled Samoa since 1982 and holds 35 out of 50 elected seats. HRPR Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has held power since 1998.

The vote comes amidst proposed changes to Samoa’s constitution to divide the judicial system. One of the new laws would transform the Land and Titles Court—which deals with customary land disputes—into a stand-alone judiciary equal to the Supreme Court. The government would have the power to remove judges from the newly transformed court, raising questions about its independence.

Recent polls suggest the HRPR will win most seats with an outstanding victory, consolidating Tuilaepa’s power for at least five more years. Upon the results, expect Fono to actively work towards the approval of the proposed amendments. While opposition parties may campaign to block these actions, it is unlikely to prevent the significant reform, as only a two-thirds majority (34 votes) is required to instigate any Constitutional change. If approved, expect the new court to alter the relationship of the government’s branches, weakening the judiciary as an independent check.

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