Samoa's breakaway MPs caught by party hopping rule
Warning that it's illegal to party hop amid news of five members of Samoa's ruling party preparing to break away and form new party.
Five members of Samoa's ruling Human Rights Protection Party, including two former cabinet ministers, are believed to be breaking away and setting up a new party.
However, the speaker of the legislative assembly in Samoa, is warning that it's illegal for any MP to party-hop during a parliamentary term.
Leilani Momoisea reports.
Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says the MP for the Siumu constituency, Tu'uu Anasi'i Leota, has confirmed plans for the new political party. However, he says the MP is reluctant to release any details on the new party, which comes as the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is currently overseas. He says news of MPs breaking away from HRPP follows members demanding the resignation of the Finance Minister, Faumuina Tiatia Liuga, over allegations of abuse of power and mismanagement.
FAUMUINA TIATIA LIUGA: The Prime Minister in a media conference last week when I asked him, said that the decision has already been done. The caucus had voted for the minister to maintain in his cabinet, and there is no other decision. Now, last weekend and early this week, the member of parliament for Siumu constituency has confirmed that they are in the move to set up this political party.
However, the speaker of the legislative assembly, La'aulialemalietoa Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, says MPs know very well that the law disqualifies any MP from leaving their party and forming, or joining, another.
LA'AULIALEMALIETOA POLATAIVAO FOSI SCHMIDT: You can't form another party, coming out of another party, and form a new party, you can't do that, that's what the law says. You can only go back to your constituency and have your new election for the coming back in, otherwise you have to stay as an independent for the rest of the term.
In 2010 three members of the Tautua party had to step down, and re-contest their seats, after declaring themselves members of the opposition during a parliamentary term. This was a result of amendments to the Electoral Act that requires that all MPs remain loyal to the political party they entered Parliament in on. La'aulialemalietoa Polataivao Fosi Schmidt says the law, to prevent party hopping, maintains the sustainability of parliament.
LA'AULIALEMALIETOA POLATAIVAO FOSI SCHMIDT: We have some other difficulties in previous years, we had about three Prime Ministers in one year, people keep on moving from corner to corner, so in order for us to control our parliament sustainability we have to make sure we implement law that holds the respect of members to their parties and also to parliament, and for their electoral constituency.
Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Tautua party, Palusalue Faapo II, says the HRPP has been in power for a long time and it's difficult for any opposition to win against them. He says he's been in touch with the break away MPs to discuss how they can support each other in the future.
PALUSALUE FAAPO II: If a new party is being formed it will be a great assistance with our role and the opposition in trying to win government in the next general election. We will be focussing on working together with them to have a stronger opposition and preparing ourselves to be the next government.
Palusalue Faapo II says they won't join together as one party, but could look at working together as coalition parties.
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