Samoa Power Struggle Ends; First Female Prime Minister Elected

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By Quentin Choy

May 25, 2021

A constitutional crisis in Samoa concluded with the swearing in of Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, leader of the Faith in the One True God (FAST) Party. She defeated incumbent prime minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, who leads the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).

Sualauvi suspended the meeting of parliamentary sitting without explanation over the weekend, which is commanded by the Samoan Constitution to meet within 45 days of an election. Mata’afa and her FAST party met outside of the Parliament to form her new government, which Malielegaoi condemned as treason and as ” the highest form of illegal conduct.”

Incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi. Courtesy of The North West Star.

A Chinese-funded project in Samoa’s Vaiusu Bay which was supported by incumbent Malielegaoi was rejected by Mata’afa who believes that “the proposal and the scale of the project is such that it’s really not realistic.” Mata’afa plans to free Samoa from its reliance on China for credit and loans which accounts for about 40 percent of Samoan debt which translates to around $200 million. Her plan to free the country from debt to China may be provocative, but Mata’afa hopes to maintain relations.

However, she does not want the Chinese to believe that Samoa is too dependent, saying “China is not the only partner or donor for our development effort, and I think we need to have a realistic review, not only of China but all of our development partners.” This move restricts Chinese “neo-colonialism” through infrastructure projects and loans like in Pakistan, Central Asia, and African countries such as Namibia.

The end of this constitutional crisis is a victory for global democracy in a year where democracy has seemingly been on the decline in places such as the United States, Myanmar, and Belarus.

Image Courtesy of The Fiji Times.

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