Cliff-hanger vote in Samoa gives sole independent balance of power

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A handout photo taken and received on April 9, 2021 from the Samoa Electoral Commission shows ballot boxes arriving for counting during the general election in the capital city of Apia. — Samoa Electoral Commission / AFP pic
Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - A handout photo taken and received on April 9, 2021 from the Samoa Electoral Commission shows ballot boxes arriving for counting during the general election in the capital city of Apia. — Samoa Electoral Commission / AFP pic

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APIA, April 9 — Neither of the two main political parties could claim victory following a cliff-hanger general election in Samoa on Friday which left a lone independent MP holding the balance of power.

Preliminary results in the small Pacific island nation, had the ruling Human Rights Protection Party and the opposition FAST party locked at 25 seats each in the 51-seat parliament.

“We have noted that we have won 25 seats. We do appreciate that this is a provisional result,” FAST leader and former deputy prime minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa said, releasing the details ahead of the Electoral Commission.

“The official count will not happen until next week when we will have further clarity on where the election result comes to.”

Mataafa said the need for negotiations with independent Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio, and the possibility of legal challenges, meant it could be two weeks before a government is formed.

“That will be a process that needs to take place. An independent is an independent, I don’t know if that’s a good position to be in or a bad position but I’m sure that will be part of the conversations,” she said.

Incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has been largely unchallenged during his 22 years in power, acknowledged the outcome and called on Samoans to “wait for the final result after the official count next week”.

Samoa had been considered a one-party state with the HRPP dominating the political landscape since it rose to power in 1982, apart from a brief coalition period in 1986-87.

But the mood changed significantly when Mataafa quit the HRPP and defected to the FAST party late last year following a public spat with Malielegaoi over planned legislation which critics said undermined the constitution.

The country, with a population of around 220,000, gained independence in 1962 after nearly 50 years as a New Zealand protectorate. — AFP

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