M.P.s switching parties risks vacating seat

Members of Parliament running for public office again under a different political party in April’s General Election will have their seats declared vacant.

This applies to those who are independent Members of Parliament and want to register under a political party during the candidates’ nomination period. 

There is also no exception for those who entered the Parliament under a political party but now want to switch allegiance to a different political party. 

The Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulelei, confirmed the seat of an Independent M.P. will be declared vacant if they announce allegiance to another party.

"Standing Order provides that once a Member has taken the Oath of Allegiance as an independent member, they are recognised as an independent member for the rest of the parliamentary term," said Tiatia, in response to queries from the Samoa Observer. 

"If within the Parliamentary term they wish to change their independent status to join a party, that permits the seat to become vacant."

As per usual practice, according to Tiatia, the Electoral Commissioner shall make public the names of all candidates nominated on the day appointed for the nomination of the candidates. "At this stage I cannot comment unless the Office of the Speaker has received confirmation of nominations," he added.

In the Constitution, Article 46 on the tenure of the Office of Members stipulates several steps that can result in the seat of an M.P. becoming vacant.

“Where in certain circumstances the Member (i) resigns or withdraws from or changes his or her political party,” states Article 46 (3a)(i) of the Constitution.

Furthermore, it adds that the seat becomes vacant if the M.P. “joins a political party if he or she is not a member of the political party.”

Earlier this week, the Independent M.P. for Salega No.2, Olo Fiti Vaai, registered his name to run under the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi [F.A.S.T.] party banner next year. 

Olo is aware of the risks involved in losing his seat and is prepared to challenge the legislation to retain his seat before the Parliament dissolves in January.

He said he thought of the consequences of the move he made and had also explained to his constituency that he may lose his seat.

But it was a risk Olo said he was willing to take and one his constituency was prepared for, too. "I already explained to them that I may lose my seat because of what the law says,” he said. “But it is a law that we need to look at carefully. 

“like I keep saying, these laws are undemocratic and not good for the people.” 

Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, confirmed that the move by the M.P. will keep him safe from the prospect of a by-election.

However, his future for the remainder of the current parliamentary term could be cut short if his seat is declared vacant.

“The law does not allow any by-election within six months before the election,” said Faimalomatumua.

“But the fact that Olo was an independent M.P. until he declared himself as an official candidate for F.A.S.T. the law is very clear on that and he would have to vacate his seat."

However, the process of seat vacation lies within Parliament, Faimalo added. 

"And I think they (Parliament) have their own processes to adhere to.

"Our job is not to manage the members, our job is to administer the process that elects the members of Parliament.” 

Bg pattern light


Subscribe to Samoa Observer Online

Enjoy access to over a thousand articles per month, on any device as well as feature-length investigative articles.

Ready to signup?