Fiame focused on election main event
Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa is declining to speculate about early election figures as she stays focused on Friday’s main contest.
The contest will determine the makeup of the XVII Legislative Assembly, which will govern the country for the next five years.
(While 51 seats are notionally up for grabs, Fiame is one of only three M.P.s whose passage into Parliament is already assured: no one is challenging the former Deputy Prime Minister for her Lotofaga seat.)
The party’s other candidates in contested constituencies are campaigning ahead of Friday’s poll and F.A.S.T.’s leader intends to spend her pre-election time lending her colleagues support to those in the field with visits to candidates and constituents alike.
Pre-polling has been conducted across four days this week, a first for a Samoan election, allowing for the release of very preliminary figures about candidates’ vote tallies.
The release of the early figures tallies has prompted debate about their significance (pre-poll voters in total only represent about 6.5 per cent of Samoa's total election pool).
Fiame, who has been in Parliament since the age of 28 after being elected in 1985, said she is not sure yet how much weight to give the results of early votes.
“We are trying to assess how useful an indicator it might be for the main election,” she said.
“You could read all sorts of things into the numbers but I think we need to have a look at it overall and see how it might be useful as an indicator.
“We’re essentially looking at old people, people with disabilities, and those travelling so that in the vast majority of the voting population, one big group would be the youth.”
After this week’s pre-polling, for which about 8,500 voters are eligible, about 115,000 voters (from the all but three uncontested constituencies), will cast their ballots on election day.
“In terms of the actual candidates, I think it would be a fair comment to say most people are focusing on the main event tomorrow,” she said.
“I don’t want to make any predictions.”
Fiame said she was not particularly focused on any particular constituencies in the final hours before the national poll.
After her last-minute campaign drive concludes, she will join F.A.S.T. party analysts at the party’s Maota Samoa headquarters on election night, where she says will monitor the performance of the party’s candidates across the board.
“I am following everyone. For us as a party, every single win will count so we are looking at all our people,” she said.
“With the elections, you are never quite sure so you take your wins where you find them.”
She said no matter what result is delivered on Friday, Samoa’s governance system will have been changed for the better.
“Our party’s particular role will be determined by how the country votes tomorrow,” she said.
“Whichever way it goes it’s going to be different going forward in terms of Government because F.A.S.T. has brought in an element that has been missing for quite a long time in terms of challenging the H.R.P.P.
“Whichever way it goes, the commitment is there to serve the country in whichever capacity, and that goes for the party as well of course.”
This is the first election in that Samoa has conducted early votes for eligible constituents. Fiame said it is something she would like to see repeated but without dragging it out for too long.
She said four days are too many for around 8,500 people to vote and have their votes announced before the big day.
Fiame said there is value in early-voting but that perhaps for a number of eligible voters so small one day would have been enough.
“It’s been quite a big outlay for the Government to have four days putting out all the personnel and infrastructure to run this for a very small number of voters,” she said.
“It’s quite a large expense. I was wondering if they did feel pre-polling was a good idea, especially for the elderly and the disabled and people who might be traveling, whether it might have been better to have one day rather than say four.”
After three days of early votes, F.A.S.T. candidates are leading in 20 out of 48 constituencies.
By Thursday night these numbers will have changed for the last time before the remainder of the population take to the polls on Friday.
The Office of the Electoral Commission will open 430 polling booths for Friday.
Staff and ballot boxes were deployed to Savaii on Thursday morning, and more will travel across Upolu on Thursday afternoon to be ready for the morning.
(Last month the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II, officially declared Fiame and two of her colleagues, including caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, as having secured entry into Parliament.)