SUVA, April 21 — Samoa’s ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) led by incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and the Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi party (FAST) led by former HRPP member and former deputy prime minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa have now been tied with 26 seats each in the parliament, after a newly elected independent parliament member decided on Wednesday to join the FAST.
According to Samoa’s English daily newspaper the Samoa Observer, Tuala Tevaga Iosefo Ponifasio, the independent member of parliament, revealed his decision to side with the FAST during an official meeting with his constituency on Wednesday morning. The constituency will formally present Tuala to the FAST on Friday.
On Tuesday night, Samoa’s Office of the Electoral Commission announced that the threshold of 10 percent women representation in the island nation’s parliament had not been met in this year’s general election, which was held on April 9, with the ruling HRPP and the FAST being tied with 25 seats each in the parliament.
Aliimalemanu Alofa Tuuau, who is from the ruling party, was on Tuesday night elected to Samoa’s parliament through the statutory mandate ensuring 10 percent of the seats are occupied by women. Her election under the threshold then puts the ruling HRPP ahead of the FAST with 26-25 seats in parliament respectively.
Tuala’s announcement on Wednesday morning would leave the parliament in a 26-26 deadlock. Parties in the South Pacific island nation are only given 45 days after election day to form the new government.
Samoa has a population of more than 190,000. The nation’s last general election was held in 2016 with the ruling HRPP winning a landslide victory.