F.A.S.T. wins case, majority

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 17 May 2021, 12:20PM

Samoa's election deadlock has finally been broken after the Supreme Court declared the appointment of an additional Member of Parliament unconstitutional. 

The unanimous verdict reached by a panel of justices of the Supreme Court on Monday overrules the appointment of Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau to Parliament and breaks a political deadlock that has been looming over the nation since the 9 April poll. 

The decision now gives the Faatuatua ile Atua Samoa ua Tasi (F.A.S.T.) party a Parliamentary majority. If the recent voiding of last month's election and order for a snap second poll is also overturned F.A.S.T. will control 26 seats on the floor of the Parliament compared to the Human Rights Protection Party's 25. 

Justice Lesatele Rapi Vaai handed down the decision together with Justice Vui Clarence Nelson and Justice Niava Mata Tuatagaloa. 

Justice Vaai ordered that the warrant of election issued by the Head of State to appoint Aliimalemanu was declared void. 

The verdict from the panel of Justices follows a legal challenge mounted by F.A.S.T. against the Electoral Commissioner for activating a provision in the constitution to increase the number of women M.P.s, which resulted in a 26-all deadlock between the parties. 

The now-voided deadlock was among the reasons cited by the Head of State, His Highness, Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, for calling for a second, snap election on 21 May as neither party, it was argued, could claim they commanded a majority in Parliament.

A decision on the voiding of the election is expected to be delivered later this afternoon.

Aliimalemanu was initially appointed to the Legislative Assembly, less than two weeks after last month's national election.

The Office of the Electoral Commissioner (O.E.C.) had initially said that there was no need to invoke a quota mandating that per cent of M.P.s elected are women.

But in a late-night posting to their Facebook account on 20 April the O.E.C. said that the constitutional requirement that 10 per cent women representation in Parliament had not in fact been met. As the woman election candidate to have received the highest proportion of votes in her seats despite losing, Aliimalemanu was chosen to fill what the O.E.C. had since argued was a void in women's representation in Parliament. 

Five women were duly elected at the completion of the 9 April election. The Commission had argued that represented only 9.8 per cent of the total membership of the Parliament and so required the activation of the quota and Aliimalemanu's election.

A decision on a second decision by the Head of State - to void the 9 April poll and institute fresh elections on 21 May - is expected to be delivered later this afternoon. 

In that case, F.A.S.T. argued the rationale for the voiding was flawed as it pre-empted the court's decision on the validity of Aliimalemanu's appointment and was unconstitutional because it had made without Parliament having ever been convened to test if a majority could be formed. 

By Matai'a Lanuola Tusani T - Ah Tong 17 May 2021, 12:20PM
Samoa Observer

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