Tuala joins F.A.S.T.; insists he's still "kingmaker"
The newly elected MP for Gagaemauga No.1. has decided to join the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party following more than a week of post-election deliberations.
Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio revealed the highly anticipated decision during an official meeting with his constituency at Samalaeulu on Wednesday morning.
The decision comes hours after the Samoa Observer revealed that as party of his negotiations with both parties the independent candidate had asked Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) leader Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi to stand down as a condition of the party securing his vote.
But an announcement late on Tuesday night that the Head of State, acting on the advice of the Electoral Commission, brings into question the significance of Tuala's announcement.
It was announced that an additional seat would be added to Parliament to meet Samoa's minimum quota for female candidates. An H.R.P.P.-aligned M.P. has been appointed to make up the apparent shortfall, so it is now unclear what effect Tuala's announcement will have on the formation of the next Government.
Aliimalemanu Moti Moemoemausu Alofa Tuuau of Alataua Sisifo's passage to Parliament was announced on Tuesday night. Her election was part of a provision that boosts the number of women M.P.s that gives an additional seat to a woman candidate who failed to win her seat but lost but garnerered the highest proportion of votes while coming second.
The new addition and Tuala's announcement would leave Parliament in a 26-26 deadlock. Parties are only given 45 days after election day to form Government.
Tuala also informed the constituency about the latest update with Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau making through Parliament. However, he told the constituency not to worry as he is still the "kingmaker."
The villages of Mauga, Patamea, Samalaeulu and Saleaula gathered at Samalaeulu and hosted an ava ceremony for Tuala.
The decision was met with loud applause and cheers from the constituents gathered. The constituency will formally present Tuala to F.A.S.T. on Friday this week.
Upon announcing the Electoral Commission was reviewing its initial decision that the quota did not need to be advocated this election, Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio noted the decision could be subject to a court challenge and that the basis on which the decision had been made had never been tested in court.