In overnight news the Samoan head of state Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II has suspended the recalling of Parliament due to occur on Monday.
Samoa has been thrown into a constitutional crisis after the Head of State suspended Parliament’s scheduled Monday sitting in a shock last-minute move moments ago.
In a statement issued a short time ago, His Highness Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, announced that he was suspending Parliament “pursuant to his constitutional authority”.
The move directly undermines an earlier writ signed by the Head of State signed this Thursday, which confirmed Parliament would convene on Monday to meet a constitutional obligation.
The Head of State did not give any reasons for the suspension but said he would make his justification known in due course.
The proclamation apparently brings the Head of State into conflict with a constitutional provision requiring that Parliament convenes within 45 days of a national election being held.
The final date for that swearing-in is on Monday, which is 45 days after the 9 April national poll.
The historical background is the stunning win of the FAST is set out in this Stuff Article written by Mandy Te:
For 39 years, Samoa has had the same political party – the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) – in power, and the same leader since 1998.
HRPP was founded by Va’ai Kolone and Tofilau Eti Alesana in May 1979.
At the time, the party was the opposition to the then-prime minister Tui Ātua Tupua Tamasese Efi‘s government.
HRPP supported a general strike in 1981, organised by the Public Service Association, that saw thousands of public servants protesting over pay disputes, according to a discussion paper by Antony Hooper.
Government operations were paused, schools were closed and communication with other countries was hindered, the paper said.
In some ways, this strike helped the HRPP come to power in 1982.
The country’s longest-serving leader, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, entered politics in 1981 and became prime minister in 1998.
And of the recent election she said this:
The election began on April 9 and preliminary results showed a dead heat.
The HRPP and the FAST Party were tied at 25 seats each in a 51-seat parliament, and Independent MP Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio found himself in the role of “kingmaker”.
This dead heat continued again when Ponifasio sided with FAST Party and Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuaau from HRPP was appointed to parliament as part of the article on female representation.
Newcomer Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa Ua Tasi (FAST) Party was the opposing party in this year’s election.
Last year, the FAST Party was formed on July 30, by former speaker of the Samoan Parliament, La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt.
It is led by former deputy prime minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
The recent election ended up in deadlock. The one independent MP went with the FAST party but the Government relied on a constitutional provision that required 10% of the Parliament to have a further Government supporting MP appointed.
The head of state entered the fray and called for a new election based on the deadlock.
FAST took the matter to Court where it was held that the appointment of the new MP to ensure the gender quota was not breached was unconstitutional. A further case decided that the Head of State’s calling of a new election was also unconstitutional.
Then last night Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II issued this proclamation:
You have to wonder about the timing. In Samoa Sunday is Church Day. Very little else happens. Despite this the Supreme Court will sit as a matter of urgency today.
The result was interesting. The HRPP party, such was its confidence, had stood multiple candidates in electorates and some FAST candidates made it through because of vote splitting. I am sure the same thing will not happen at the next election, whenever it is.
Samoa's Supreme Court will sit in chambers in a unique Sunday session today to hear an application by Fiame's FAST party to overturn suspension of tomorrow's parliament
— Michael Field (@MichaelFieldNZ) May 22, 2021
This is not over yet. The next 24 hours will be vital for Samoa’s democratic future.
Update: three Judges of the Supreme Court have ruled that the announcement is “unlawful” and that Parliament will meet tomorrow.
It will be interesting to see how far Malielegaoi pushes this.