Petitions scheduled after snap election challenge
The Supreme Court has scheduled the hearing of legal challenges to the results of the 9 April elections in the days after a second, fresh snap election was ordered to be held by the Head of State.
Last week the Head of State called a snap election to break a deadlock between Samoa’s two leading parties to be held on 21 May. His decision is being challenged in the courts.
But more than two dozen petitions alleging those who emerged triumphant from the first round of elections on 9 April violated the Electoral Act were also lodged.
The hearing of those petitions will take place after the date for a fresh election ordered by the Head of State, despite the outcome of the petitions being rendered irrelevant if the new election goes ahead.
“I’m sure we are aware that the reason we are continuing petitions is that the court has not made a decision on the Head of State’s proclamation and accordingly we are obliged to ensure that matters that have been filed with the court continue to be efficient and proceed to trial,” the Chief Justice, his Honour Satiu Simativa Perese, said during the mention for the 28 election petition cases.
The court’s decision on the Head of State’s fresh election proclamation will determine whether the petition cases will continue.
“[..] The Head of State cases is later this week and likely in terms of the judgement […] is next week, I will not allocate any hearings until the week commencing the 24 May, 2021,” said his Honour Satiu.
The petitions represent a 300 per cent increase from the only six that were filed after the 2016 General Election.
All of those were later withdrawn for a number of reasons including an inability to prove the accusations on which the petitions were based including alleged treating and bribery.
If court challenges are successful and results are voided, voters are sent back to the polls for by-elections.
A total of 28 candidates in the 9 April election have raised questions before the court about the conduct of their winning candidate, the Electoral Commissioner, or both.
The Human Rights Protection Party (H.R.P.P.) filed a total of 14 electoral petitions; eleven against the Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) rivals and three against their own winning party members.
On Tuesday in court His Honour Satiu said three cases were to be scheduled on the week commencing 24 May, 2021.
Those include legal challenges between Maualaivao Patelesio Ah Him and Seiuli Ueligitone Seiuli; Sooalo Mene and Vaele Paiaaua Skuini and the Electoral Commissioner as well as Fuatimu Maumea Leniu and Sulamanaia Tauili’ili Tuivasa.
The cases scheduled for hearing the following week involve Afualo Dr Wood Salele against Fepuleai Faimata Sua and the Election Commissioner as well as Pa’u Roy Ausage against Lupematasila Tile Leia.
Other matters have been postponed to allow time for the respondents to respond to the counter petitions.
H.R.P.P.’s Fuatimau Maumea Leniu is challenging another H.R.P.P. candidate and former M.P. Sulamanaia Tauiliili Tuivasa. No F.A.S.T. candidate contested the Vaimauga No.1 seat in the General Election.
From the constituency of Siumu, H.R.P.P. 's Tuuu Amaramo Sialaoa is challenging his party colleague and former M.P. Tuuu Anasii Leota. The official count showed an almost 50 per cent difference in votes between the two.
From Aleipata Itupa I Lalo, former M.P. Tafua Maluelue Tafua petitioned against newcomer and fellow H.R.P.P. member, Fiugalu Eteuati Eteuati. There was just over three per cent difference between the two in official results.
Two petitions were filed by Independent Members, each against F.A.S.T. and H.R.P.P. winning members.
Those include former Associate Minister of Health, Maualaivao Patelesio Ah Him against H.R.P.P.’s Seiuli Ueligitone Seiuli for the Sagaga No.2 seat and Former M.P, Ili Setefano Taateo Tafili against F.A.S.T.’s first-timer, Agaseata Tanuvasa Peto from Aana Alofi No. 3.
Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio, the independent M.P. once known as the “kingmaker” of a deadlocked election who ultimately lent his support to F.A.S.T. is also being challenged by his H.R.P.P. rival Laufou Alofipo Faamanu Manase.
On the other side, F.A.S.T. filed 10 petitions against winning members from the H.R.P.P. including Deputy Leader, Lauofo Fonotoe Pierre of Anoamaa No. 2 and caretaker Ministers, Tapunuu Niko Lee Hang of Vaimauga No. 3 and Loau Keneti Sio of Sagaga No. 1.
In turn, the F.A.S.T. party will be defending 14 seats in total from petitions filed by H.R.P.P., but also the Tautua Samoa Party and an independent candidate.