The electoral stalemate in Samoa finally looks set to be resolved with a Court of Appeal ruling on Friday paving the way for a Supreme Court hearing today.
Today’s hearing will determine whether the swearing-in ceremony held last month by the election-winning FAST party was legal.
The Supreme Court is due to sit at 10am local time with a decision due as early as 12:30pm.
The Appellate Court on Friday declared that the issue of a contentious sixth women’s electoral seat could not prevent the convening of Parliament.
The decision refutes the caretaker Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) government’s claim that the extra seat must be appointed before Parliament could sit.
FAST leader and Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata’afa said whatever the Supreme Court decision was today, her party would continue to push to have Parliament convened and for the operational budget to be urgently approved by the end of June deadline.
Fiame has written to the Head of State requesting the house sit on Tuesday.
Back to Parliament
“If it goes against us, all we’ll really need to do is to go back into Parliament and get sworn in and just continue to formulate the government based on our numbers.”
The FAST Party now has a 26-24 seat majority following the HRPP loss of Sagaga No.2 this month in an electoral petition.
Both candidates have been voided for corruption and a byelection is pending.
The Samoa Observer reports that the caretaker prime minister – and leader of HRPP – Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi – has scoffed at FAST’s call to convene Parliament following the Appellate Court decision.
Tuilaepa said at least FAST have had the Appeal Court’s decision explained to them and they now understand what it means.
At an evening of singing at HRPP headquarters on Saturday Tuilaepa said the court has clarified what the decision meant.
“And now they’re claiming they won and want Parliament to convene. There’s no decision like that,” the Observer quotes him as saying.
Tuilaepa maintains that Parliament cannot convene until all legal challenges are dealt with and until a sixth woman member has been chosen as per Section 44 of the Constitution.
Doubts over HRPP members
Meanwhile, the prime minister-elect is questioning the legitimacy of the HRPP MPs who were not sworn in by deadline.
The constitution requires Parliament to convene and members to be sworn in by the 45th day following an election.
None of the HRPP’s 24-member caucus have taken the oath for this term.
FAST leader Fiame said if today’s Supreme Court hearing ruled in favour of her party’s swearing-in, then it brought the status of the HRPP members into doubt.
“There is still a big question on what exactly is the legal status of the HRPP MPs because, you know, they weren’t sworn in within the period that is required. So, you know, that’s another question that’s going to be challenging us.”
Also in court this week the caretaker government and officials face accusations of contempt of court for their role in blocking the FAST party from being sworn in.
FAST says the lockout at Parliament was in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling that Parliament should convene.
In Australia, the Morrison government has called on Samoa’s two political parties to cooperate and convene Parliament, while the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna has told media he has been assured by leaders of both parties that they will respect the court’s decisions.
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.
Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz