Samoan Supreme Court decision on deadlocked election expected

Samoa’s Supreme Court will today deliberate a constitutional case which could break an electoral stalemate in place since Samoa’s April

Photo: Samoa Global News

Samoa’s Supreme Court will today deliberate a constitutional case which could break an electoral stalemate in place since Samoa’s April 9th general election.

Both the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and opposition Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party hold 26 seats. FAST seeks to disqualify the HRPP’s 26th seat—granted by the Electoral Authority—to meet constitutional requirements that at least 10% of seats be filled by women.

How the Court will rule is uncertain, but a 2019 constitutional amendment favors FAST. If the Court decides for the HRPP, the deadlock will continue. However, subject to further court petitions, a FAST win gives it a one-seat majority, making its leader—Fiame Naomi Mata’afa—Samoa’s first female prime minister. A Mata’afa government would shift Samoa’s development policy away from debt-funded infrastructure projects—particularly, Chinese-backed projects. Expect cancellation of a proposed $100 million Chinese-funded wharf that FAST argues is a debt-trap and sovereignty risk. Furthermore, FAST’s majority hinges on an Independent representative seeking to curtail Chinese businesses in Samoa. These policies will likely strain, but not break, Sino-Samoan relations in the short- to medium-term because Samoa’s recognition of China over Taiwan is set to continue.

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