Another election, same politicians

Samoa is heading to the polls. Again.

In a continuation of the most confounding elections this country has ever seen, the Head of State last night announced that the April General Election is now void.

Every elected Parliamentarian, all 52 of them, must now head back to the polls for a second round contest for a seat in the House.

His Highness the Head of State, Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II hit the reset button and sent everyone back to square one.

His reasons can be found on our front page story, but questions now arise about the future of our democracy. Can we still even call ourselves a democracy?

It has been one month since Samoa started its 2021 General Elections process.

On April 5, the pre-polling booths opened and voters trickled in to cast their ballots. And so began what would eventually become a marathon of political strategy, debate and the ultimate test of patience for citizens and budding mathematicians.

It’s been several weeks since the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party shocked their opponents at the Human Rights Protection Party by taking half the seats in the House.

Then there was the era of the Kingmaker. Then the 6th Woman.

No-one could have anticipated that a month later, Samoa would still be without its 17th Parliament and the Executive would still be operating in caretaker mode.

The drawn out electoral process of voting, vote counting, results, court challenges, strike out motions, electoral petitions, counter petitions – what was initially noise and excitement, gave way to exhaustion and exasperated utterances of “is it over yet?”

And on the eve of the Supreme Court hearing in to the F.A.S.T. challenge to the election of the 6th Woman to Parliament, the Head of State threw a spanner in the works and announced that there is to be another General Election.

While the idea of another election had been floated by the Prime Minister for a week or two, the timing could not have been more insightful as to the depths politicians will go to for power.

What we have seen and heard from political leaders is that power, or the promise of power, is intoxicating and difficult to give up. Both parties have gone so far as to deride the integrity of two institutions that are central in our democratic electoral process.

From the office of our caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi last week flowed unsubstantiated allegations of bias on the part of Supreme Court judges, whom he acknowledged or at least gave audience with idle talk about alleged meetings with the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi camp. He also insinuated that the Chief Justice was the only trustworthy member of the Judiciary.

For Tuilaepa to give life to idle gossip (because if it was true, where is the evidence?) is a level of desperation we hadn’t seen before from the father of the nation.

On the other side of the political gulf, the leader of F.A.S.T. has lost some of that graceful shine and cordial spirit, with assertions that the Office of the Electoral Commission has delayed what should have been their succession to power.

“We will not discuss the matter that is now before the Court which will be decided upon by Judges, but it does not take away the questions that must be raised regarding the actions of the Electoral Commissioner which has caused this drag to the people’s choice,” said Fiame.

“From the 51 electoral constituencies that participated in the general election, 26 seats are with F.A.S.T., 25 are with H.R.P.P.

“This means, the people’s choice has chosen the FAST party as the winners.”

All those legal interpretations and alleged dubious practices are now moot with the declaration by the Head of State that all election warrants are now void.

With the announcement, court proceedings are likely to be made redundant.

The Head of State has pulled rank, and being immune to prosecution, he has cut down any further deliberations in the Courts.

The fact that neither camp has the fortitude to allow our established protocols for good governance to run its course leaves the rest of us with little faith in our leaders.

The fallout from this political warfare between the two parties is a country divided by divisive rhetoric and dirty tactics that have sullied the good reputation we have built as a stable, democratic nation.

If neither camp is capable of saying it, perhaps the Samoa Observer can provide a little guidance and shine a little light on our current predicament by saying that there is no winner if both F.A.S.T. and H.R.P.P. are unable to take a step back and allow the democratic process to flow and do its thing.

Allowing democratic processes to work would mean letting the Office of the Electoral Commission do their part without denigrating them, and allowing the Court system to decide without casting aspersions on the character of Judges.

The people of this country have been taken for a ride we never asked for.

Power is a hell of a thing, and what we are seeing is the desire to hold on, or grab hold, at all costs.

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