The Contemporary Pacific 14.1 (2002) 224-236
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Polynesia in Review:
Issues and Events, 1 July 2000 to 30 June 2001
National University of Samoa
The major event in the year under review was the general election on 2 March 2001. The present review is confined to that event because of its significance and its possible effects on current and future political developments in Samoa.
The 2001 general election chose representatives for Samoa's thirteenth parliament since independence in 1962. A total of 153 candidates contested the 49 parliamentary seats. Nine were women, of whom 4 stood for the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and 5 stood as independents. Overall, 55 candidates stood for the HRPP, 33 for the Samoan National Development Party (SNDP), 5 for the newly established Samoa United People's Party (SUPP), 1 for the Samoa All People's Party (SAPP), 58 as independents, and 1 was elected unopposed (Office of the Legislative Assembly). The successful candidates included 23 HRPP, 13 SNDP, 1 SUPP, and 12 independents. Of this number only 3 were women--1 HRPP candidate and 2 independents--which is an improvement from 2 in the last parliament. Of the 2 sitting female members of parliament, only Fiamë Naomi Mata'afa regained her seat. Fiamë has not only been a cabinet minister since [End Page 224] 1991 but was the first woman to be appointed to cabinet. Only 24 members in the last parliament retained their seats, of whom 16 are HRPP members, including the Speaker, 6 cabinet ministers, and the prime minister. Of the 25 new members, 4 were elected from constituencies whose members in the last parliament decided not to run in these elections, and 6 were members in previous parliaments, including 2 cabinet ministers and the Speaker of the House. Thus, of the 49 seats in the new parliament, 30 are occupied by members with previous parliamentary experience (SG, 2001).
Of the 92,788 people who registered for the general election, about 62,312 turned out to vote, or 67.2 percent (SG, 2001; Records of Registrar of Voters). This is an estimated figure because in most of the two-member constituencies, voters or electors do not always cast their two votes. Some cast only one vote for the candidate they prefer, thereby increasing that candidate's chance of winning, to the disadvantage of rival candidates. This is called "bloc-voting," a common strategy in the two-seat constituencies.
Compared to the 1996 general election, the HRPP lost 1 seat, ending up with 23, the SNDP gained 1 (13), and independent seats dropped from 13 to 12. When parliament convened on 15 March to elect a new government, the HRPP had 28 supporters (down from 36 in the last parliament) and the coalition of SNDP, SUPP, and the United Independents had 21 (SO, 16 Mar 2001). The 5 additions to HRPP included the only candidate to be elected unopposed and 4 independents who contested their seats. Three of the independents claimed that they had always been supporters of the HRPP and had intended to join the party if elected. The seats they won were occupied by HRPP members in the last parliament. The party has a standing policy whereby the sitting member becomes the party's first-choice candidate. Furthermore, the "new" candidate(s) could not contest the seat on the HRPP ticket without the approval of the sitting member. Perhaps this is why these three candidates stood as independents even though their hearts were with the HRPP. The fourth independent who joined the HRPP told his electorate during his campaign that he would join the political party that won the most seats.
In the first session of parliament, Tuila'epa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, the incumbent prime minister and HRPP leader, was reelected for another five years, as was the Speaker in the last parliament, Tole'afoa Fa'afisi. Tuila'epa's new cabinet, announced on 19 March 2001, included 4 ministers from the previous government and 8 new members, of whom 5 were HRPP members from the last parliament and 3 are newcomers to...