In politics, arithmetic does not lie

By The Editorial Board 03 December 2021, 12:57AM

The hardest kind of arithmetic to master is not calculus or algebra but that which tells us a broader truth about ourselves.

We know the rules of mathematics are ironclad but when they point to a solution we disagree with we would often rather shield our eyes from the answer.

And so it has been with the results of the six by-elections last week. 

For weeks former Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sailele Malielegaoi and his top lieutenants had been telling anyone who would listen that they would perform a clean sweep of the elections and ride back into Government.

How embarrassing for them, then, last Friday must have been. For the second time in a year they have misread the mood of the electorate by a tremendous amount, a fatal sign of decline for any politician, a profession that lives and dies by being able to read the mood of the nation.

But as much as those who find them unflattering may wish, numbers do not lie. Politics is ultimately a game of arithmetic.

And as new analysis on the front page of Thursday’s Samoa Observer revealed just how on the nose the former Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) Government, they must now think about changing strategies (“F.A.S.T.'s by-election landslide revealed”). 

Analysis by the Samoa Observer showed that when the six electorates who went to the polls on Friday’s results were compared with the same vote total recorded in the April election six months ago, voters deserted the H.R.P.P.

To rub salt in the wound, these were all previously seats held by the H.R.P.P. but for which the sitting member had been displaced following a post-election legal challenge.

The change led to the Government claiming four of the six seats up for grabs.

But the total vote shares in the electorates were even more astonishing.

The Fa'atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party increased their popular vote share in these electorates by nearly three-quarters.

That is a political thumping of embarrassing proportions after which even Tuilaepa, so famous for his bombastic answers to questioning, will find hard to hold his high.

In the seat of Aleipata-Itupa-i-Lalo alone, only 10 per cent of voters cast their ballots for F.A.S.T. in April. Last week their vote share grew more than five times. 

If we were to universally apply the swing in support we saw last week across the board to all seats in Samoa, we would see the political party that has dominated our nation’s politics for four generations reduced to a rump of an opposition that could caucus in a broom closet.

Any elected member of the H.R.P.P. must be, if they can stomach doing so, eyeing these numbers with extreme nervousness about keeping their jobs.

And a restive party room is what leads to political change.

After all, we must ask ourselves what changed in the past six months to produce such a profound change in the public’s opinion?

The answers all lie with Tuilaepa.

Let alone his arrogant predictions about being back in Government by Christmas he held this country’s democracy hostage over a four-month period in which he simply refused to acknowledge the fact that he had lost an election.

At his instruction Parliament and in contravention of a court order Parliament simply did not meet so that a new Government could form and a budget could be passed.

All the while, unlike his counterpart and the current Prime Minister, he showed not an ounce of humility in that process and acted as if the chair he had occupied for two decades belonged to him - not us, the people of Samoa. 

If members of the H.R.P.P. party room do not act quickly to effect change, they are at a great risk of having the strongest and most enduring brand in post-independence Samoan politics tarnished beyond repair.

It is obvious that even out of power, Tuilaepa still pulls many strings in this country; one does not occupy the top job in the country for so long without accumulating a network of favours and friends.

Should H.R.P.P. members fail to find the courage to ask obvious questions there is a very real possibility that a dominant force in our politics will wither on the vine or fracture into pieces.

Neither would be good for our democracy.

By The Editorial Board 03 December 2021, 12:57AM
Samoa Observer

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