Lawyer calls for review of Samoa election

Samoan lawyer Josefina Fuimaono-Sapolu is calling on the New Zealand Parliament to review Samoa’s 2021 General Election to ensure that is has gone through a free, fair and democratic process.

Ms. Fuimaono Sapolu is asking for the review in a petition filed with the New Zealand Parliament.

The “Petition of Josefina Fuimaono-Sapolu: To ensure the Election 2021 in Samoa is fair and democratic” was filed on 30 April, 2021, according to the New Zealand Parliament’s website. 

The request has been made on the grounds, “That the House of Representatives urge the Government to review the Election 2021 in Samoa to ensure it has gone through a free, fair and democratic process.”

The reason for the petition is that New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (M.F.A.T.) values Samoa’s reputation for good governance as a leader in the Pacific region.

Conduct by the Office of the Electoral Commission (O.E.C.) in the 2021 election “raises doubt” of good governance in administration of the election, the petition states.

The appointment of Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau of Alataua Sisifo is referenced in the petition.

New Zealand is an aid donor and a close friend of Samoa and New Zealand must be sure its aid and support are not being misused by supporting an unfair election, Ms. Fuimaono-Sapolu states.

M.F.A.T states ‘we value Samoa's reputation for good governance and as a leader in the region.’ Conduct by the Samoa Electoral Commission Office in the Election 2021, raises doubt about whether there has been good governance in its administration of the Election,” says the petition.

“Including (but not limited to) the appointment of a Member of Parliament who did not win in her constituency. As an aid-donor and close friend of Samoa, New Zealand must ensure its aid and support [are] not being misused in supporting unfair election-processes.”

The O.E.C. confirmed that the threshold of 10 per cent women representation in Parliament had not been met in the General Election.

Five women were duly elected at the completion of the Final Count of votes for the 2021 General Election but the O.E.C. said last month they were seeking legal advice on whether another woman must be brought in to Parliament, with contention over whether those elected met the country's legal threshold.  

On 20 April, 2021, the O.E.C. issued a Warrant of Election signed by Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II.

The warrant declared Aliimalemanu as an M.P., creating an extra seat in Parliament for a total of 52 seats.

The extra seat gave the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) 26 seats in a Parliament and the majority over the 25 seats won by the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) political party.

The O.E.C. notice accompanying the warrant stated that Article 44(1a) of the Constitution had been activated as 10 per cent of women in Parliament had not been met following the General Election.

F.A.S.T. filed an electoral challenge in the Supreme Court over its decision to activate the 10 per cent mandate of women Members of Parliament.

Last week, the Supreme Court dismissed a strike out motion from the O.E.C. to quash the electoral challenge.

The decision was handed down by Acting Chief Justice, Her Honour Niava Mata Tuatagaloa, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai.

The matter moves forward to a substantive hearing to determine the challenge brought by F.A.S.T.

F.A.S.T. alleges that the decision of the O.E.C. was unconstitutional and it acted unlawfully to certify Aliimalemanu as an additional Member. 

The petition filed in New Zealand had garnered more than 1,900 signatures as of Monday, 3 May. It can be accessed at www.parliament.nz

The Samoa Observer has sought comments from the New Zealand Law Society in relation to the petition filed with the New Zealand Parliament but no reply was received at the time of going to press. 

On Monday, questions were sent to the New Zealand Law Society about the petition. No reply was received by press time.

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