'Kingmaker' Tuala Ponifasio remains undecided

With the preliminary count of Samoa's 2021 General Elections at press time, the unofficial breakdown of Parliamentary seats is tied at 25-25 between the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.). 

With the total number of seats being contested for the XVII Parliamentary term now at 51 with electoral constituencies rearranged and some renamed, and all eyes are now on the sole outlier, Gagaemauga No.1. 

The preliminary count places the constituency's Independent candidate Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio in the winning seat, and with the parties unofficially tied, he is being dubbed the "kingmaker", holding the key to a majority hold for both H.R.P.P. and F.A.S.T. 

Tuala was interviewed after midnight on Radio Samoa, and was asked if he had made a decision on which party he would like to join. 

The Independent said his platform for contesting the Parliamentary seat was not through a political party, and there was no intention to do so.

"For now, there is no intention or feeling about that, I have been awaiting the results of the elections, waiting to see where the country will vote," he said. 

"But now we can all see that there is a tie in the votes for Parliamentary seats."

Despite the tie, Tuala said there was no feeling as to which direction he would go.

"This will have to go back to my constituency of Gagaemauga No.1 for discussions. This will not be my decision or what I think, it will go back to my constituency for their decision on what to do."

When Radio Samoa announcers pressed him on rumours that he had decided to align himself with the H.R.P.P., and posed the question of what he would do if caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi called him and offered him a senior role in Cabinet such as Deputy P.M., Tuala countered lightheartedly by saying he might receive a phone call from F.A.S.T. Chairman Laauli Polataivao Schmidt as well. 

He went on to say that while there are political motives behind such rumours, the decision and plans for the future lie with his constituency and he will leave it to his voters to decide his fate. 

He added that this would not be a quick decision and he was sure it would take time to mull over the final decision. 

This is Tuala's third run for Parliament, and when asked if he felt defeated after his first two failed attempts, he said he never lost hope.

"I always wanted to serve. I never wanted to give up. I kept going because I believed I can contribute to Parliament for the development of our country."

The Independent said he knows he can contribute in a different way, and can bring something new from what others have done before him.

"I believe that when I am in Parliament, I can bring change."

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