Promotion of new political culture commendable
They say every democratic election should be celebrated and that is exactly what the voters in Samoa did over the last week culminating with the general election last Friday.
Over a thousand travelled to Savai’i to join the 38,840 cast their votes and thousands more in Upolu were part of the estimated 86,209 voters registered in Upolu, crisscrossing the island over the last week as the country’s eligible voting population engaged in universal suffrage.
And when the counting of the ballot boxes was temporarily suspended by the Office of Electoral Commission early Saturday morning, the 2021 General Election preliminary results made their way into the history books, when both the Human Rights Protection Party and the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party were in the lead and tied with 25 seats apiece.
Counting remains suspended until Monday morning, but that hasn’t stopped members of the public from taking to social media to make declarations of their own in terms of government formation, drawing caution from the O.E.C. to guard against misinformation as it continues the count.
And as the last of the voters return to their residents on either Savai’i and Upolu and reminisce on what has been a historic seven days for the country, all eyes will be on the man-of-the-moment and Independent M.P. Tuala Iosefo Ponifaso.
Politics can be cruel at times for those aspiring for public office with the challenge of getting over a loss often becoming a battle on both the personal and professional fronts.
But success at the polls after a third attempt, and then finding oneself as the sole M.P. with the balance of power that could decide the fate of the country’s two largest political parties, are the stuff that dreams are made of.
However, we are encouraged to see that the Member-elect for Gagaemauga No. 1 isn’t overawed with the position that he now finds himself in, after the preliminary results from the counting began filtering through last Friday.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Samoan published in the Sunday, April 11, 2021 edition, he emphasised that he is prepared to wait for the final count of all the ballots before deciding who to support.
"It's only the early stages yet, but we really need to factor in a lot, take a lot into account and consider the tos and fros,” Tuala said.
"I haven't started that yet, I am trying to breathe in the fresh air and relax.”
His decision to wait for the final count by the O.E.C. to be concluded before deciding on his next move shows respect for the country’s electoral process, and the benefits are also immense as one would need time to weigh out the benefits of supporting either party before consulting his constituency prior to making a choice.
It was clear from Tuala’s interview with this newspaper that he intends to forge his own path in his bid to promote “clean politics” in Samoa’s Legislative Assembly, and he started by raising concerns about the manifestos of both the H.R.P.P. and the F.A.S.T. party, while emphasising that he will not use the two parties’ policies as a yardstick to determine where his support will go.
"So I don't go by manifesto, I don't know, that's not a factor to consider,” he said in the interview.
"You know [across political] history, [politicians] have said that they will do this and they will do that, and then they go in, and do exactly what the previous Government did.
"So the change that needs to be made is not a manifesto change."
It is refreshing to see a first-term Member-elect – whom both parties are looking at to decide the balance of power for the next five years – laying down the gauntlet on creating a new Samoan political culture that is free of corruption, committed to clean politics and devoid of personality attacks that became a feature of the last Parliament.
And Tuala was spot on when he decried the practice of a new Government slipping back into the old habits of its predecessor, despite campaigning on a platform that promoted change.
At the end of the day it is not the interest of the party that an M.P. should represent but that of his constituency and people, who gave him that mandate through their votes in a general election.