May 24, 2021


Samoa’s first female Prime Minister did not receive the swearing-in ceremony that she deserved on Monday. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was inducted in a makeshift ceremony inside a tent outside of Samoa’s Parliament building.

Details of Fiame Naomi Mata’afa Gridlocked Election

There is a power struggle occurring in Samoa. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi served as the Prime Minister of Samoa for over two decades. On April 9, Malielegaoi defended the throne against Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of the One True God Party (FAST) and was defeated.

A coup formed to try to keep Malielegaoi in power, but it was unsuccessful. Malielegaoi ruled for two decades, but the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which he was part of, had served for almost 40 years.

Mata’afa winning the vote has disturbed many people in the country because change has not occurred for years.

Canceled Parliamentary Sitting

There was supposed to be a parliamentary sitting on Monday to determine the election results. However, it was canceled without explanation by the head of state Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aleto’a Sualauvi II.

The Samoan Supreme Court ruled that the sitting cancellation was unlawful, but when FAST showed up for the event, they were locked out of Parliament. FAST proceeded to swear in their new leader Fiame Mata’afa in a tent outside of the building.

However, there are doubts that this will be counted for the new leader. The power struggle in Samoa seems far from over. There is a coup attempting to keep out Mata’fa, and they support a party that has been in power for 40 years.

Malielegaoi immediately questioned the legitimacy of the ceremony, claiming that the transition of power had not occurred. He said, “Only the head of state, and no one else, can call parliament meetings and swear people in. None of what they did is legitimate.”

This situation has never occurred in the country since Samoa became independent from New Zealand in 1962. This makes it tough to predict an outcome for the situation.

How the Discrepancy Happened

The initial results of the election showed that FAST and HRPP split parliament seats, each winning 25. The 51st seat was claimed by an independent, but the person elected to support FAST, which would have given the victory to Fiame Mata’afa.

However, the Samoan Parliament has a gender quota law, so a new seat was formed to meet the standard. Ten percent of Parliament seats need to be held by women, but females filled 9.8% after the election. There was a new position created by the election commission, giving HRPP 26 seats as well.

This quota fulfillment created a tie in Parliament, which made the Prime Minister undecided. The Supreme Court ruled against the new seat, which should have returned the victory to Mata’afa.

HRPP does not care about women’s representation in Parliament, but they are using the rule as a weapon to hold the Prime Minister’s position. The rule was established because the Pacific region has the lowest level of female representation in the world.

Only 6.4% of lawmakers are women in the Pacific. The first female Prime Minister could take her seat soon, but HRPP will contest every move.

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