Home Asian News The political supportive women of Samoa - The Diplomat

The political supportive women of Samoa – The Diplomat


Samoa is home to one of the world’s longest serving leaders. Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malilegaoi has been in power since 1999, while his political party, the Human Rights Defense Party (HRPP), dominated Samoan politics for 40 years.

Although 75 years old, but Malilegaoi is looking for another term. But the election, held on April 9, with the counting of votes in progress, overturned that and put a group of powerful women at the top of Samoan politics.

A former Malilegaoi ally, who served as his deputy prime minister until last year, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who defected from HRPP, declared that they had “slipped out of the rule of law.”

In the year since then, she and her mostly female advisors have built up the most effective opposition party in the country, which is now threatening the long-standing leadership of HRPP.

According to current polling results, Mata’afa’s party, Fa’atuatua I le Atua Samoa (FAST party) won 25 of the 51 available seats, while the ruling HRPP party also had 25 seats, with the nomination. The independent member Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio held a chair and left. He’s like a potential “king”.

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Ponifasio told Samoan Observer that he is in no hurry to make any decisions but his top priority is to make a change in Samoan politics, which political observers say means to support Mata’afa .

In an interview this morning with TVNZMata’afa said while she expected Ponifasio to stand with her party, her success set a good example for women in Samoa regardless of his decision.

“I am a very strong advocate of women’s participation in politics,” she said. “I don’t think it’s just being prime minister – I think in any area where women are ahead – so I think I’ve always been conscious of the reality of being a role model.”

Renate Rivers, editor of Samoa Observer, said that if, after the final vote count, FAST is declared the majority holder, “Mata’afa’s victory will be historic.”

“Any woman who transcends the field of male-dominated politics deserves respect, so those who have passed this time have done a great job.”

According to the preliminary results, 5 women will be elected to the government, only 1 more than the 2016 election, but still a victory nonetheless, Papali’l Mele Maualaivao, UN Women Coordinator in Samoa said.

“Women are not only important as candidates but also fundraisers, campaigners and voters. While women in Samoa may be seen as a more traditional and less overt role for women in Samoa in supporting a male husband or relative’s attempt to run for office, we have see women’s groups working together to push women to run and to push voters to support female candidates, ”she said.

In 2016, 24 women ran for a seat in parliament with four to vote and one in place under a legal measure to ensure that at least 10% of the seats were held by women.

This year, with five women ready to take on parliamentary positions, no reform will need to be enforced. In this election, 167 male candidates to 21 female candidates entered the race.

Rivers said regardless of whether Mata’afa was in the top seat or not, “she won.”

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“Her election as a leader, and the fact that the current unofficial results show FAST with the HRPP-like seats suggests that voters trust her leadership. . This is a good thing for women in politics, ”she said.

“If chief and ruler [village council] Seeing that a woman has been elected as a leader and that she has delivered such astonishing results, it becomes even more difficult. [for men] To eliminate women is simply the support system they rely on to keep the engines running in the background. “

The results not only gave women a bigger say, but also saw Samoa have its first effective opposition party in nearly three decades.

Assistant Professor Leasiolagi Dr. Malama Meleisea from the Samoa Research Center at Samoa National University said his dream of Samoa having a viable opposition has been fulfilled.

“The faint hope I have for democracy is no longer blurred,” he told Samoan Observer. “It looks like people voted for them, for whatever reason and for anyone who encouraged them. I’m glad that democracy seems to be doing well. ”

Despite these successes, Maualaivao says there is still a long way to go.

“There are still many structural obstacles that exist here, making it difficult for women to run. 19 villages have not yet recognized women as matai [village chiefs] it is imperative to run for Parliament… Only 11% of matai are registered as women, ”she said.

“So having a voice and being heard in your community is the key to getting into politics, which is a big challenge if you are female and come from a village that doesn’t allow you to get involved in politics. decision. If your village does not approve of you, you cannot run for Parliament.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa not only overcomes barriers in Samoa, but if elected, she will be the second woman ever to be elected prime minister of a Pacific island nation.

The election also turned women’s space quotas into the limelight. Samoa is the only nation in the Pacific to have a constitutional amendment stipulating that 10% of the seats in the National Assembly are held by women. The rule is based on logic when given the chance, women will prove to voters that they can lead and that in turn will be voted instead of having to make an amendment to secure their position.

Maualaivao said the Samoan election demonstrated that the amendment is working.

“We promoted [this amendment] for other Pacific countries because this approach does not ‘force men out of their seats’ but creates more seats in Parliament to ensure women’s participation, ”she said.

With Tonga holding elections later this year and Fiji and Papua New Guinea voting next year, women across the region will closely follow Mata’afa’s victory.

Maualaivao said she hopes that not only governments in the Pacific but also women across “our green continent” are inspired to rise higher.

“We still have some of the highest rates of GBV [gender-based violence] Around the world (2 out of 3 women experience GBV compared to a global one-third) and we need more women in decision-making roles to not just drive these issues. but also deal with them, ”she said.

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“If there are no women at the table contributing to the solutions, there is no end in sight. We must be the light at the end of the tunnel, from the village to the National Assembly.

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