F.A.S.T. rejects fresh election call

The Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party has declined a call for a fresh election after a meeting with the Head of State and the Prime Minister on Tuesday. 

F.A.S.T. leader, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa revealed that she has responded to the decision from the Head of State, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Sualauvi Vaaletoa II to hold a second General Election.  

“The reason for this action was explained as being due firstly to public disquiet (and referred to Facebook posts and other social media, as an example),” she said.

“And secondly, due to the fact there is a ‘hung’ Parliament.”

The F.A.S.T. leader says she was taken aback by the proposed action by the Head of State, who had asked her to respond to his proposition by Tuesday afternoon, which she has.  

“In short, I do not consider that the Head of State has the constitutional power to call new elections at this time.” 

Fiame noted from the Constitution.

“First, the reason there is a 26-26 deadlock is the result of a decision and action taken by the Electoral Commissioner and signed by the Head of State.

“That decision has been challenged, and the hearing is set down for tomorrow, Wednesday 5 May 2021, before the Supreme Court, who is likely to give their decision promptly given the significance of the issue.”  

The appointment of Ali’imalemanu Alofa Tuuau as an additional Member of Parliament has been challenged by F.A.S.T. who argued the appointment is unconstitutional and unlawful.  

Three Supreme Court Judges, Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa, Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai are presiding over the matter. 

On Tuesday, the Court had yet to rule on the case and Fiame questioned why the Head of State would not wait for the Court’s decision before taking action. 

She pointed out that the Head of State must call Parliament within 45 days after the General Election, pursuant to Article 52 of the Constitution where he can make several decisions.

Fiame believes that it is during that session that the Head of State can confirm that Fiame has the support of the majority of the Members of Parliament and have her sworn in as the Prime Minister. 

Or, she said, he can confirm then that there is a 26 – 26 split of votes for her as leader of F.A.S.T. and whoever the leader of H.R.P.P. will be at that particular time.

“It is at that specific time that the Head of State can confirm the swearing in of a new government…” she said.

“Or can confirm that no one (and no party) has the majority within Parliament and can then call to adjourn the session and await the outcome of the electoral petitions or call for fresh elections. 

“In either case, the Head of State’s legal role is clear when those events occur.” 

However, Fiame said the prematurely suggested course of action at this time “is to pre-empt and undermine the decision of the Supreme Court before it has been made”. 

She added it will also “pre-empt and undermine the actual vote of all the members of Parliament who were declared as winners in the official count released by the Electoral Commissioner”.  

Fiame maintains the actions are wrong and unlawful.

“These proposed actions threaten and undermine the Rule of Law,” she said.

In her written response to the Head of State, she had asked the Head of State to allow the Supreme Court to hear and decide the challenge that was before them. 

The two likely outcomes of the decision of the Court is if the F.A.S.T. challenge is successful, then the issue is resolved and the number of seats returns to 26 for F.A.S.T. and 25 for (H.R.P.P.) as voted by the country. 

Should the Court dismiss the claim from F.A.S.T., Fiame said the Head of State is required to call Parliament by 24 May where a formal count can be taken of all the Members elected, to determine if any leader has the majority.

“If no leader has the majority of votes in the Parliament, then the session can be adjourned to await the outcome of electoral petitions or then, and only then, should a new election be called by the Head of State,” she added. 

The F.A.S.T. leader has also criticised the Caretaker Prime Minister for allegedly interrupting the proper process of election under law. 

“This latest attempt to encourage the Head of State to act unlawfully and before the outcome of a Court challenge (to an official changing of the results of a general election) is unsettling and wrong,” she claimed. 

“I and the FAST Party continue to place our trust in the proper application of the Rule of Law.

“We denounce this behaviour and we especially denounce the use of public resources and public officials by the caretaker government to hold onto power.” 

Fiame concluded that “the law sets out the process after an election, and we must follow this process, without diversion or trickery”.

It was not possible to get a comment from the Caretaker Prime Minister.  

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