Requirement to reside in Samoa changes for candidates
Candidates who intend to run for the upcoming 2021 General Election must now reside in Samoa for 305 days, as opposed to 240 days before.
The change was recently passed in Parliament when the Electoral Amendment Bill 2020 went through its third reading and approved by the Legislative Assembly.
Concerns about the new change restricting the movement of candidates from seeking medical treatment and other travel purposes were dismissed by the Electoral Office.
Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, said the intention of the 305 days change was based on parliament’s intention for candidate to be permanent resident.
“From case laws, the Courts referred to the intention of Parliament at the time when it passed the 240 days,” he said.
“Parliament’s intention was clear that a person vying for a Seat of Parliament must reside permanently in Samoa.
“There are of course exceptions to allow for movement of people like, medical treatments, official travel for Government and organisations etc.
“305 days in our opinion reflects that intention of Parliament more strongly while still allowing adequate time for people to move in and out of Samoa.”
Asked why the more than 20 electoral amendments were just tabled in parliament in less than a year from the General Election.
In response, Faimalo said the bulk of these changes are consequential amendments, triggered from the original amendments contained in the Bill that was tabled in Parliament in December 2019.
“The original changes in the Bill originated from the By-Election for Fa’asaleleaga Nu.2,” he explained.
“From there, the process was initiated with our Report to Parliament recommending the amendments which we know will further strengthen the new Electoral Act 2019.
“The Bill went through the Parliamentary process, the Parliamentary Committee reviewed it and suggested further changes to the Bill.”
The Electoral Commissioner said as expected under Parliamentary processes, the Government is required to respond whether to accept or reject changes suggested by Committee.
He said some of those changes were accepted as they were relevant and will contribute further to the strengthening of the Electoral.
“Others, in our opinion would not serve the same purpose at this point of time,” he said.
“So to answer your question, the changes in the Electoral Amendment Act 2020, were triggered from the By-Election for Fa’asaleleaga No.2 and some were suggested by the Parliamentary Committee.”