F.A.S.T. seeks court challenge over new M.P.

The Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party will mount a legal challenge after Tuesday night's announcement that another woman had been added to Parliament on the basis of meeting the country's electoral quota. 

The party says that there was no reason for the commission to add an additional woman to Parliament and raise its seats to 52 because they believe the minimum of women M.P.s had been elected. 

Last Tuesday night, the Office of the Electoral Commission (O.E.C.) revealed that the temporary special measure to ensure women’s representation in the House was activated and that the Head of State has certified a new Member of Parliament, Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau from Alataua Sisifo.

She is a member of the Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) and the party treasurer, and brings the party's total number of seats to 26.

The decision severely alters the notional balance of power between political parties. After independent Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio - whose vote had been expected to break a deadlock and determine which party governed Samoa - today announced he was joining F.A.S.T. that leaves them tied with 26 seats each. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, F.A.S.T. said it has filed a motion for declaratory orders to reverse the decision and declare the warrant of Aliimalemanu’s elevation “unlawful and void.

“FAST believes that the Constitution is clear and unambiguous, that the minimum number of women is clearly defined and prescribed in the Constitution as 5 and as has been met by the 5 women who were successful after the General Elections 2021,” the statement said.

The party currently holds 25 seats.

On Wednesday, Independent member Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio revealed he will join forces with F.A.S.T, bringing its total representation in Parliament to 26 seats also.

Party leader Fiame Naomi Mata’afa confirmed this on Wednesday morning.

How this deadlock is broken in order for a party to form the Government is not clear. Parties have until next Friday 30 April to file their election petitions against their opponents, and the Samoa Observer understands the courts have given themselves two months to work through those petitions. 

Meanwhile the deadline to form a government inches closer. There is a 45 day window after a General Election to form a government, which during the last week of May.

F.A.S.T. has also filed a motion for a declaratory order to declare an HRPP Member’s election win unlawful.

They say Peseta Vaifou Tevagaena’s win in Faasaleleaga No. 5 should be declared void, because he has a previous conviction with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment.

They argue he should have not been allowed to register as a candidate.

Peseta was one of three candidates in Faasaleleaga No. 5, all of which were from H.R.P.P. 

He won against former Avele College principal, Matafeo Reupena Matafeo, and Vui Laniselota Lameko, first-time contender and son of a former member of the Council of Deputies. 

Originally, a member of the Samoa National Democratic Party (SNDP), Vui Seinafoloava Masinamua, had registered to contest in Faasaleleaga No. 5 but was disqualified by the O.E.C. 

In the last Legislative Assembly, he was the Associate Minister for the Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

FAST closed its statement calling for patience and calm as the Election process continues.

“F.A.S.T. prays for our people’s continuing patience and calm while we try to ensure that any threat to the integrity of our General Elections is removed and that the justice perseveres in our democracy. God bless Samoa.”

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