Researchers observe election
A team that consists of students from the Australian National University in Canberra, representatives of the National University of Samoa and other local organisations will be studying the implementation of the elections.
Members of the group will be divided between Savai’i and Upolu so they could observe how elections are run in Samoa.
Nicole Haley of the Australian National University said the team has carried out a similar exercise in other Pacific countries.
She made it clear that they are not in Samoa to monitor the election.
“We will be focusing on different aspects of the election like the reserve seats and quota for women as well as the creation of urban seats,” Ms. Haley explained.
“We are interested in the nature of politics across the region and the change in political culture.
“We will be looking at issues of electoral administration and how smoothly it runs.
“From that we will make our observation and recommendations to the office of the electoral commissioner. It’s very much around understanding the nature of politics in Samoa.”
Ms. Haley said Samoa is leading the way in terms of electoral reforms in the Pacific. She made reference to the quota for women members in Parliament and the debate about monotaga.
According to Ms. Haley, elections have been “historically problematic” because there seems to be a fine line between what’s acceptable and what is not. In Samoa’s case, the monotaga is an interesting example.
“Obviously these provisions around the need to provide services is interesting and something for us to look at,” she said.
“To see how it works here and it may well be a lesson learnt from here for other countries who are exploring ways to deal with challenges they face in election.”
The team had been to elections held in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Asked to compare, Ms. Haley said the elections in Samoa is a lot more “subdue”.
“In P.N.G. and Solomon Islands, it tends to be much more flamboyant around election with loud rallies and things like that,” she said.
“There is a big shift that we’ve been seeing in the increasing influence of money politics and political gifting which has a greater influence on election. In P.N.G there is also increasing violence around election and the stakes are often a lot higher.”
Another research fellow, Dr. Roannie Fui Ng Shiu emphasized the impact of social media.
She said not only will they be looking at electoral reforms, they will also be interested in the role of social media and how it impacts on politics and first time voters.
Center of Samoan Studies Director, Leasiolagi Dr. Malama Meleisea said part of the research is talking to voters and seeking their understanding of the election.
He made it clear that the observers will not be passing judgment on anything.