New cabinet gets straight to work . . .
After three months of constitutional deadlock, on Friday, Samoa’s Court of Appeal confirmed that Fiame Naomi Mata’afa of the FAST Party won the April election, making her the country’s first female prime minister. Samoa, a Polynesian island country located midway between New Zealand and Hawai’i, relies on farming, fishing, and coconut exports; tourism; and aid for its highly China-indebted economy. The previous government had supported a Chinese-backed port expansion, but it remains to be seen whether Mata’afa will follow through with her earlier insistence that she would shelve the C$120-million project.
Political deadlock . . .
The recently resolved election has been the most contested in Samoa’s history. Outgoing Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who ruled for 22 years, vehemently refused to admit defeat in the narrowly lost election. The April election ended in a tie, with each party securing 25 seats and an independent winning one seat. The independent sided with FAST, but in the political deadlock and jockeying that ensued, the two parties, the court, and the electoral commission all engaged in actions that were stress-tests for the country’s Constitution and its rule of law and democracy. Tuilaepa has said that he and his party would support and work with the new government.
The Blue Pacific continent . . .
While the size of Samoa’s population is comparable to a mid-sized Canadian city, it is situated within an expansive and strategically vital area of the Pacific Ocean – one that is resource-rich, covered by vast Exclusive and Economic Zones, and has military and political importance for Australia, China, France, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan, and the United States. Samoa is also a member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF, of which Canada is a dialogue partner), an intergovernmental organization focused on interregional co-operation and economic and social well-being. Earlier this year, five members pulled out of the PIF after a contested election for the position of PIF Secretary-General, raising questions about the region’s stability and potential for further Chinese influence in the region.
- The Diplomat: How the Pacific Islands Forum fell apart
- The Guardian: Samoa’s political crisis ends and first female prime minister installed after court ruling
- Radio New Zealand: Samoa's new cabinet meets to set budget