Special booths for upcoming by-elections

By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 06 October 2021, 11:00AM

Special booths will be set up for the upcoming seven by-elections, especially for voters from the constituency of Falealupo, in Savai'i who are currently residing in Upolu. 

This was confirmed by the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio in response to queries from the Samoa Observer newspaper. 

This follows recent amendments to the Electoral Act, which were passed in Parliament over a week ago. One of the amendments made to the Act includes returning of special booths set up for voters from Savai'i and the rural areas.

In the general election in April, all the voters were asked to cast their ballot in the polling booths set at the constituencies they registered under. However, that will no longer be the case for the upcoming by-elections. 

Faimalo also confirmed that a total of 16,862 voters will head to the polls to cast their ballots, once the dates have been finalised by the Speaker of Parliament.

The Electoral Commissioner further confirmed that 1,103 of the eligible voters are pre-pollers. 

Also there will be no changes made to the rolls that were used in the April's elections for the seven constituencies, according to Faimalo, as stated in Section 150 (1)(2) of the Electoral Act 2019. 

The seven by-elections will also determine whether the former ruling party, the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) can regain its numbers to challenge Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) to regain government. 

Should the party win all seven seats that it previously held and secure an additional seat for women in the parliament, it will test the numbers that the F.A.S.T. currently enjoys.

The F.A.S.T. Government has maintained its 26 seats majority since the conclusion of the April general election with the subsequent electoral petitions further reducing H.R.P.P. seat numbers to 18. 

However, in order to meet the mandatory 10 per cent quota for women in parliament – two additional women are needed to satisfy the constitutional requirement. There are currently four women Members in the House but the Constitution requires six women in the Legislative Assembly. 

If no woman candidate is successfully returned from the by-elections, or secures a higher votes percentage than Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau's 40 per cent in the April polls, the opposition has a chance of returning to power. 

F.A.S.T. female candidate, Toomata Norah Leota who secured 36 per cent of the votes in the April election is placed second after Aliimalemanu and is next in line to fulfill the 10 per cent women quota in the parliament. 

However, if Toomata gets the ticket as the second additional woman M.P. in the House it will not only expand the seats in the House to 53 but will also ensure the F.A.S.T. Government stays in power.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House, Papalii Lio Masipau is yet to issue a warrant to confirm the day for the seven by-elections. 

In a recent interview with the Samoa Observer, Papalii said he is currently assessing the Court's report on the post-election petitions after a two weeks sitting of the Legislative Assembly. 

He added he has also not determined whether winning the Members who resigned from office in order to run again for the by-election will be given the okay by his office.

“I am assessing the report at the moment and I should deliver my determination next week and inform of when by-elections will be held,” said the Speaker.  

The Supreme Court has ruled that the arrangement by election candidates to resign and run again for office is considered to be a corrupt deal but the final say will have to come from the Speaker. 

Two winning candidates from the April election made such arrangements to resign from office in order to avoid going through legal challenges and run again for by-elections. 

The seven constituencies that will return to the polls are: Sagaga No. 3; Sagaga No. 4; Aana Alofi No. 2; Safata No.2; Falealili No. 2; Aleipata-Itupa-Lalo and Falealupo. 

The Chairman of F.A.S.T., La'auli Leuatea Schmidt confirmed last month that they will field seven candidates for the upcoming by-election. 

The one and only constituency from the big island of Savai'i that will go through a by-election, Falealupo have already presented their candidate to the F.A.S.T. camp over two months ago. 

The Tautua Samoa Party has also re-grouped to discuss and re-strategise for the upcoming seven by-elections after the party failed to record a single victory in the April general election.

The former ruling party, H.R.P.P. are also counting on the by-elections to return to power by fielding candidates for all the constituencies going through by-elections. 

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HRPP
Politics
Savaii
By Sialai Sarafina Sanerivi 06 October 2021, 11:00AM

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