Second election call "disappointing", questionable: expert

A top Australian foreign policy expert says a decision by the Head of State to call a snap election is “disappointing” and could lead to a dubious, hastily-constructed second poll.

Alexandre Dayant, an expert in politics and economics in the Pacific based at Sydney’s Lowy Institute, told the Samoa Observer that the announcement by the Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II was flawed for many reasons.

The Head of State on Tuesday revoked April’s election a day prior to the hearing of a Supreme Court hearing which would potentially break Parliament’s 26-all deadlock.

“While I thought the result of the first election was a triumph for democracy and an encouraging sign for political engagement in Samoa, I must say the decision made by the Samoan Head of State to call for a second election is disappointing, for several reasons,” Mr. Dayant said.

“First, my understanding is that the Parliament needs a 45 day [cooling] off period before calling another election, which seems to have been ignored. Second, there are still cases related to fraudulent elections pending and the Court still has to decide on petitions.

“And then, the appointment of the Chief Justice and the Head of State by Government under the leadership of Tuilaepa adds to the complexity of the situation.”

Asked if a new election could expected to be a repeat of the 9 April poll in terms of results, Mr. Dayant said: "I think the results might be different and in favour of H.R.P.P. 

"At the first elections, in many constituencies, there were two H.R.P.P. candidates for one F.A.S.T. candidate. H.R.P.P. was so used to win elections, that presenting two candidates was their way of doing a 'pre-election'. 

"But due to the closeness of the April result, I anticipate H.R.P.P. to only present one candidate for each constituency, while F.A.S.T. will keep their original candidate.

"Now, I would also add on the mix the impact the whole process has on Samoans. The complication of the election might tire them up, and they might express for more change. I can’t tell you, but I am looking forward to hearing about the results."

He added that another concern lies in the organisational challenge that holding an election so quickly would post. 

(The Head of State named 21 May as the date of the snap elections, just a little more than a fortnight). 

“It took five years to prepare and implement the previous (April) elections,” he said. 

“This time, the Samoan Head of State wants to do it in two weeks. Even though voting is compulsory, the logistical challenges that voters face to go back to their constituencies to vote might impact the turnout. 

“I wonder how reliable the process and results will be this time.”

Tuesday’s special announcement from His Highness was delivered at his Vailele residence.

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