Expected Parliamentary swearing-in likely delayed
The swearing-in ceremony for the XVII Parliamentary term is now “highly unlikely” to be held anytime soon, the Legislative Clerk, Tiatia Graeme Tualaulele, told the Samoa Observer.
On Tuesday last week Tiatia told the Samoa Observer the Parliament could convene as soon as Friday or next week to conduct the swearing-in ceremony. This was despite looming electoral petitions in the background threatening to shape Parliament.
But Tiatia has since taken a new stance on when the swearing-in ceremony will take place.
“We have made a proposal to the [Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi party (F.A.S.T.)] to delay the swearing in while we await the decisions of the election petitions,” said Tiatia.
Tiatia’s initial statement was made before the Office of the Electoral Commissioner announced it would add a new M.P. to Parliament in order to fulfil a quota for women M.P.s. The move has increased the size of Parliament to 52 seats and placed both parties in what appears to be an unbreakable deadlock with 26 seats each.
Candidates are given 10 days to file electoral petitions after the official declaration of the warrant of the election by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II. The declaration was issued last Friday 16 April.
The H.R.P.P. has 26 seats, tying it with the nine-month old opposition party newcomer F.A.S.T.
Both parties are filing electoral petitions against each other, hoping to roll over opponents and secure the most seats for the majority in the House.
Tiatia said in light of the “hung parliament” they are opting to wait for a definitive election result before proceeding to swear in M.P.s.
“The election petition results from the court will be the determination as to which party will take precedence, that’s why it’s important to wait for the court’s decision,” he said.
“After all we still have the 45 days which will expire on 24 May, 2021.”
Tiatia also explained the law is “not clear” as to what is the next step to take when there is a “hung parliament”, namely one in which no party can form a Government on the floor of Parliament.
This week the H.R.P.P. selected their party officials for the next electoral term, including Deputy Leader, Fonotoe Pereira Meredith. The Speaker's role was given to M.P. elect, Fuimaona Teo Samuelu while M.P- elect Ale Vena Ale was Deputy Speaker.
However Tiatia said the nominations for the Speaker of the House will not be accepted by the Legislature in the event they are submitted.
“I have not received the nomination, but even that, we cannot consider, as per our request and proposal to both parties until after the election petitions from the Supreme Court,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Tiatia had told the Samoa Observer, the new Government will be sworn in the same as they had been during previous terms such as the 1985 Parliament.
In 1985 the H.R.P.P. won 31 of 47 seats in parliament after a February election under the leadership of the late Tofilau Eti Alesana.
The party did not remain in Government for the rest of the term after 11 M.P.s defected to form a coalition Government with the Christian Democratic Party that won 15 seats from election.
The H.R.P.P. M.Ps who crossed the floor to vote against the budget tabled by Tofilau formed a new Government in December which was led by Vaai Kolone.
Tiatia said the Government for the next 5 years has a busy month ahead in preparing the next financial year’s budget.
“The budget has to be tabled next month in May and whoever will become the Government will have to prepare that budget,” he said.
“The budget has to be approved before the end of June…”