Election candidate nominations surge

Candidate registration for the 2021 general election closed on Friday with a total of 200 nominees applying to stand for a seat in Parliament, an increase of nearly 25 per cent.

A total of 200 candidates nominated to run for the 2021 General Election, a 23 per cent increase of running candidates compared to the previous election, according to figures released by the Office of the Electoral Commission. 

The reigning Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) registered the most candidates with 114 nominations; Samoa’s newest opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.), registered 50 candidates.

Of the other candidates contesting the April poll, Tautua Samoa Party registered 14; the Samoa First Political Party (S.F.P.P.) nominated six, and the Sovereign Independent Samoa (S.I.S.) only one.

A total of 15 independent candidates registered to contest this election, after the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, mooted passing laws to prevent them from standing for office in the next Parliament. 

After recent changes under the Electoral Act, there will be 51 constituencies represented in the next Parliament of Samoa in 2021.

Despite coming second in the number of candidates registered, F.A.S.T.’s founder, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt, said the day was an historic moment in Samoan politics, saying it was the first time an opposition party had registered so many candidates. 

"In history, this is the first time anyone but the H.R.P.P. has done it," La’auli told the Samoa Observer on Friday evening. 

“But I never planned for [us to be] an opposition. My planning is how are we going to have a new Government?”

La’auli, who was formally booted out of the H.R.P.P. in May, said the collection of 50 opposition candidates was the culmination of a much longer-standing plan to build an opposition.

He said that his opposition to the demolition of the old Parliament building and introduction of new electoral laws set him on the path of unseating the Government. 

“It wasn’t easy for H.R.P.P. to take over but the nation gave them trust,” he said.

La’auli said the party’s campaign strategy would now turn to voters aged between 18-30 who had known no party in Government other than the H.R.P.P. 

“That is our priority now. We are going to gather all the youth of Samoa,” he said.

“I really need their opinion; they don’t know anything but H.R.P.P. I need to think about their thinking and their mindset.”

The former Deputy Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, who resigned from her position and the H.R.P.P. last month, registered on Tuesday to run unopposed for Lotofaga but “endorsed” F.A.S.T.

She nominated as an independent, she said in a statement, to keep with her electorate’s wishes and to avoid possibly being excluded from Parliament. 

Faumuina Wayne Fong and Olo Fiti Vaai, both independent M.P.s, registered for F.A.S.T. potentially leading to their seats being vacated for the last two sessions of Parliament under electoral laws that can exclude M.P.s who change party affiliation. La'auli recognised the two M.P.s integral role in the party's formation.

But La’auli, who previously offered Fiame the leadership of the party refused to be drawn on whether he had discussed the possibility of her joining F.A.S.T. before she took her oath of office. 

“In her statement, she said she will be with us and that’s for sure,” he said.  

“There will be a time. I don't want any other challenger to come on her. I'm for her.” 

Attempts to seek comments from representatives from H.R.P.P. on Friday were not successful. The party had previously said it was aiming to reduce the number of candidates contesting seats in order to avoid potentially splitting their support base's vote and allowing opposition parties to claim victories. 

Samoa First’s leader, Fegaimaalii Toomalatai Bruce, said they planned to have more on the candidacy roll but with the time constraints and other unavoidable circumstances, there was nothing the rest of their candidates could do.

Last month, a total of 17 candidates from Samoa First were launched in Savaii.

Feagaimalii said at the moment, they are awaiting an answer from the O.E.C. in regards to why one of their nominees, particularly Toi Ioane Ilalio of Faleata No. 3, has not been included in the confirmed list.

Two candidates from F.A.S.T. will be making petitions at the court accusing their village representatives of not endorsing their required documents. They are Paloa Stowers of Faleata No. 3 and Papalii Panoa Tavita from Sagaga No.1.

On Friday, a total of 14 more candidates were nominated in addition to the total 186 candidates from the previous day.

A total of 23 females were nominated, a drop from the 24 women who ran for office in 2016. The constituencies of Palauli no. 3, Anoama’a No. 1 and Fa’asaleleaga No. 2 nominated two women each.

Three candidates will be unopposed in the upcoming General Election, two from H.R.P.P. candidates and one Independent candidate.

Meanwhile, after returning to the seat unopposed in the previous election, the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi will be against two others.

They are Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio from Sagaga No 1, Fiame Naomi Mataafa from Lotofaga and Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi from Faleata no. 3.

Compared to the 2016 General Election which elected 49 Members of Parliament, a total of six constituency seats have been added, bringing the number to 51 constituencies altogether.

In 2016, 83 candidates ran from H.R.P.P., 23 from Tatutua Samoa Party and 60 independents. 

The number of nominated candidates for the April election (200) is 23 per cent more than the number of candidates who ran in the previous election in 2016 (162).

The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio said the registration process had gone smoothly. 

"Although we would like to thank the candidates and the parties for their patience and praise God we have completed this stage of the General Election calendar," he said.

After all nominees were through the process, the two parties engaged in thanksgiving devotion amidst the crowd, followed by the exchange of traditional speeches. 

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