Why I disagree with your views

Dear Editor,

I completely disagree with the letter titled Parliament and the Head of State for the following reasons: 

1. Five H.R.P.P candidates running against 1 opposition candidate - the advantage is with the opposition candidate because the HRPP vote is split between 5 candidates and therefore cancel each other out whereas all the opposition voters concentrate their vote for one guy.

The Tautua party learned from the 2006 election and ran only one candidate in each district for the 2011 election and lo and behold they increased their caucus to 13 MPs. The most of any opposition party for many years. The problem in 2016 was that the Tautua party only ran candidates in around 25 electorates. You’ll never win an election with such poor strategy like that.

2. There are different types of presidential systems. It is noticeable that there have been far more dictatorships under presidential systems than parliamentary systems. Just take a look at all those dictatorships in South America and Africa. Most of them were under presidential systems. Turkey is now heading headlong into dictatorship by turning their parliamentary system into a presidential system.

There are 2 reasons for this.

Firstly, a President literally has a huge power to appointand dismiss and therefore can concentrate power. He appoints every single ranking member of the Executive branch, from CEOs, ACEOs, advisors, heads of the police and military forces. True, most of the important ones need to be approved by the senate, but he still has far more power to mould the executive branch in his image than a PM can.

A PM does not have that power in a parliamentary system. You will notice that in Samoa whenever a CEO is in trouble, they have to go through a long extended process of investigation, independent tribunal, court cases, before he is removed from office. In a Presidential system, a President can simply sack that person on the spot.

Just look at how Trump disposed of the FBI director Jeremy Comey recently. All it took was one letter from Trump and Comey was gone. Stui can never do that in Samoa to any CEO or anyone else in the Executive branch. He doesn’t have the authority. It has to go through all sorts of legal and jurisdictional hurdles that usually drag on for years before someone is sacked.

That is because the PM does not control the executive branch. He gets the executive branch that is bequeathed to him by PSC for everyone under CEO status. CEOs must be approved by Cabinet. The PM can’t just go around appointing his son in law and daughter to be his advisors like Trump has done.

Secondly, a President can make up executive orders to get around legislation he doesn’t like. In France and Russia, they can simply make edicts and decrees. All these things have the full force of law. A PM can never do that. Everything he wants to achieve must be through law and this has to go through the usual legislative process. 

He must convince cabinet first and then parliament. It is not automatic that cabinet agree to everything. There is a lot of internal debate within the HRPP itself and cabinet. For example, that “tax the pastors” bill, it was the 3rd time the minister had tried to get it through in recent years. The first 2 times it was rejected by cabinet and MPs within the HRPP caucus.

3. Checks and Balances in a Presidential system are supposedly a strong reason in favour of presidential systems. The American presidential system (as opposed to other presidential systems where the executive is actually much stronger eg: Russia) is designed for division.

The idea in theory is that the different branches can cancel each other out and somewhere along the way, they can be forced to work together and better policies and laws will come out.

Well, um, not sure if you have been following American politics in the past 10-15 even 20 years but there has been very little compromises on the big issues that matter and quite a bit of grandstanding and political games being played.

Take healthcare for example. It has been an unmitigated disaster. Trump was elected not to compromise. The GOP has been taken over by “tea party” fanatics whose sole aim is to never compromise.

Divided govt is good in theory but rarely works well in reality. In fact, the bipartisanship in American politics is the worst it has ever been since the civil war. Both parties are intent on destroying the other.

It is far better in my opinion to have one party get a chance to put everything into practice that they want to. If they stuff up, chuck them out and let the other side have a go. Nice and easy and you know exactly who to blame when things go wrong. In America, nobody is sure who to blame because both parties are in government and therefore 

both are to blame (but they keep voting both back in). The result is just a waste of time gridlock and do-nothing stalemate.


4. One final thing I will say. The idea that there is no opposition in the Samoan parliament is quite wrong. There are many HRPP MPs who voice their displeasure and criticisms to ministers in relation to all sorts of things. Just a few weeks ago, Sulamanaia (HRPP) was one of the biggest critics of the “tax the pastors” bill. In other debates, Faumuina (HRPP) has voiced his criticism of the so-called lack of development in Savaii. There is certainly party discipline in Samoan politics but it doesn’t stop back benchers openly criticising their own ministers. Much more so than you see in NZ politics. Maybe even Canadian politics.


Petelo Suaniu

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