Fresh faces abound in confirmed election results

Everyone can agree the 2021 Elections have been the most interesting, and eye-opening, in the last three decades.

We would like to provide a quick recap on what has been covered already in the pages of this newspaper, and as we come to the end of the Final Count of votes for all constituencies, it feels right to truly sit down and have a good look at our current situation.

From the last seven days of toing and froing over which candidate or which party would rise from the ashes, to the endless flame of misinformation burning steadily online by passionate although misguided party supporters, to political game theory over which side the Kingmaker will choose, to questions over impartiality of public servants. It’s been a thrill.

And now, we are on the cusp of the forming of a new government. What that will look like remains to be seen, and whether the winner’s podium is occupied by team red or team blue (or possibly purple?), it is clear that this will be an election for the history books.

This newspaper has provided almost 100 election-related stories over the last week covering results, analysis, profiles and opinions; a testament to the ongoing curiosity these elections have created.

As of press time, the final vote count has been announced and, yes, we are still at a 25-all deadlock between the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party. We are also, still, awaiting a final decision from the Independent Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio.

The pages of this newspaper have shown the return of incumbents, the red-washing of Savaii’s electorates, the drop in H.R.P.P. seats, the failures of Cabinet Ministers to secure re-election, the surpassing of expectations by F.A.S.T. to take 25 seats, the first-ever pre-polling experiences, reflections from voters and the challenges and achievements of the 2021 Elections.

Many of you will have your own tales to tell of the last two weeks.

We are especially interested in the newcomers; those first-time candidates who have beaten the odds to win a seat for themselves in the XVIIth Parliament of Samoa.

Now that we know the overall party wins remain unchanged, we are looking at a slew of interesting new faces for the upcoming five-year term.

In our Thursday edition, we profiled Masinalupe Makesi Masinalupe. A businessman, bus owner and driver who defeated two former government officials and a legacy candidate, to win the Lefaga and Faleaseela seat. He was the sole F.A.S.T. candidate, facing four H.R.P.P. representatives.

If the results stand, his win could be likened to a modern day retelling of David and Goliath. Samoa does love a good Bible story.  

In keeping with the theme, the new member-elect for Vaisigano No.1, Niuava Eti Malolo, beat the caretaker Minister of Agriculture in what he describes as a God-given win. He said the blessing reminded him of how King David ascended to the throne of Israel. Interestingly, Niuava is a former public servant who was working for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment prior to registering under the F.A.S.T. party.

Political legacies are always a powerful force, and two family legacies stand out with the new crop of incoming talent. Leota Tima Leavai takes over from her father Aeau Dr. Peniamina Leavai in Falealupo and Aiono Afaese Toleafoa enters the political realm from the Aana region as his father Toleafoa Faafisi retires.

Leota had said in a pre-election interview that she wants to solve and address the culture of intimidation and threats, referring to matai who were attempting to coerce voters towards a particular candidate. This is a fresh take we can support, and an issue she seems to have conquered with her win.

Conversely, a proud family legacy has effectively come to an end with the rising star of Magele Sekati Fiaui. The 35-year-old political debutant slid past incumbent, Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow, to take the Faasaleleaga No.2 seat.

As many are aware, Gatoloai - a three-term veteran - is the daughter of former Prime Minister Tofilau Eti Alesana, and the district has been an H.R.P.P. stronghold for decades. Her ousting by a young, inexperienced, F.A.S.T. member will be one of the more shocking twists in these election tales for years to come.

After Election Day, Magele said he already has three priorities in mind for his time in Parliament – better inland roads, improved educational facilities and resources for the development of sports.

The fact that he is already raring to go speaks of the vitality of youth! We only hope his voice remains strong within the chambers of Parliament, which often renders first-term politicians speechless for months, even years at a time.

The name Tuala Ponifasio has become synonymous with the moniker “kingmaker”, and as a fresh face to the House, his post-election moves over the last seven days may have left many impatient pundits unhappy, but we can appreciate his cautious and thoughtful approach.

After all, as he shared with us in our Sunday 11 April edition, he seeks a change in the political status quo.

Tuala said he is in no rush, and his priorities include effecting change such as raising standards of Parliamentary behavior, safeguards against corruption, and attracting new people and ideas to the nation’s democracy.

Idealistic, perhaps, but absolutely welcome as a strong start to a new era of Samoan politics.

Still in Savaii, Gagaemauga No.2 has spoken in favour of newcomer Seuamuli Fasi Toma – a Deacon Elder of the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa for the Itu-o-Tane district. Seuamuli was courted by the F.A.S.T. party as challenger to the former Deputy Speaker, and with a vote difference of only 61 ballots, it’s clear that the constituency is split in their loyalties.

Seuamuli shared his thoughts in our Tuesday, 13 April edition, acknowledging the support of the Church leaders for pushing him. A point of interest as his H.R.P.P. opponent, Nafoitoa Talaimanu Keti, was the subject of potentially defamatory allegations shared on the Church’s T.V. channel, a week out from General Elections. Nafoitoa denied the allegations and said he would be pursuing legal action against the television station.

One of the more politically diverse constituencies has elected a woman (one of five overall) to represent them in the Legislative Assembly. Palauli No.1 fielded candidates from five different political parties. A noteworthy feat!

Those were H.R.P.P., Samoa First, F.A.S.T., Tautua Samoa and an Independent (party of one). Setting aside any party affiliations to team blue or team red, the fact that five parties were vying for this seat is amazing!

The winner, Mulipola Anarosa Ale-Molioo, is a first-time candidate and the first woman to register as a member of F.A.S.T. Her winning margin was an impressive 252 votes. A businesswoman, Mulipola is Deputy Country Manager for FEXCO Samoa, better known as Western Union – a giant in the money transfer game - which played a key role during F.A.S.T. campaign fundraising efforts. The party’s impressive donations from Samoa’s Diaspora were mostly channeled through Western Union.

Back on Upolu, the former head of the Electric Power Corporation, Lupematasila Tologata Tile Leia kept the Falelatai ma Samatau seat under the umbrella of the H.R.P.P., usurping former Associate Minister Taefu Lemi Taefu and fending off strong competition from F.A.S.T. candidate Pau Roy Ausage.

Another new face familiar to Samoa through his celebrity-like status is that of Mau’u Siaosi Puepuemai – the face of Georgie’s pizza – who served up a piping hot defeat of all his opponents with no room for second helpings. Mau’u won with 751 votes and nearest rival on 269.

With many new businesspeople breaking through, we sincerely hope that business interests are put aside in lieu of service to the nation. After all, the interests of the people should outweigh all other interests.

Over at Aleipata, we have seen two faces rise above the rest, both going to bat for H.R.P.P.

Aleipata Itupa i Luga voters were asked to choose from three H.R.P.P candidates, and they decided upon Fuaava Suluimalo Amataga – a former head of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Over at the Aleipata Itupa i Lalo seat, Fiugalu Eteuati Eteuati has been ushered in and will replace two-term M.P. Tafua Maluelue Tafua.  

The people of Aleipata, obvious H.R.P.P. loyalists, cast 2848 ballots in the ruling party’s favour; while only 385 votes in total were registered for candidates from F.A.S.T. (206) and Tautua Samoa (179).  

Elsewhere, it wasn’t so blatantly blue.

One of the most nail-biting wins came via the race for the Faleata No.1 seat, in the form of newcomer Manuleleua Paletasala Tovale (F.A.S.T.) who defeated Salausa Dr. John Ah Ching (H.R.P.P.).

The constituency has the largest roll at 5022 registered voters, and the winning margin was a mere 26 votes in favour of the F.A.S.T. candidate. Manuleleua’s victory is the stuff of legendary mythical warriors, smashing through gauntlets and opponents of varying strength. After all, he beat out four H.R.P.P. candidates, as the only other option for voters who did not want to vote for the ruling party.

There are other new faces we have not mentioned, not for any reason other than lack of space in our columns. But rest assured, you will have our attention at one point or another over the next five years of your Parliamentary service.

Whatever you were doing before, it now comes second to your statutory duty as a member of the Legislative Assembly. We look forward to seeing what you’re made of and how you navigate the political minefields you will find yourself in from time to time.

But for now, it’s all eyes on the big tunas of our political parties. What will be their next moves? What will it mean for the people of Samoa?

These are questions we will continue to seek answers to, but in the meantime, we’ll need the weekend to let the final results truly sink in. We are truly in a new era of politics for Samoa!

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