Samoa's HRPP dominance expected to continue in poll
Samoa goes to the polls early next month but few changes are expected from the more than 30 year dominance of the country's political life by the Human Rights Protection Party.
The general election in Samoa on 4th March be the fourth time that prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has led his Human Rights Protection Party to the polls.
Tuilaepa has headed the country since 1998 - by far the longest serving leader in the Pacific.
His party has long dominated Samoa's politics and Don Wiseman asked a senior lecturer in politics at Otago University Iati Iati if this is likely to change in this poll.
IATI IATI: In terms of the ruling problem, probably not. You will probably see the HRPP party return to power.
DON WISEMAN: Possibly with stronger numbers than before, because it appears there are problems with the [opposition] Tautua party.
II: Well you have just had one of the more senior members defect as it were to the HRPP with Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi joining, that's probably going to taint the image of the Tautua in the eyes of the voters. But then you have also got I think HRPP has put out a list of about 120 candidates running for them so they look pretty strong going into the elections.
DW: There has been talk of a second opposition party forming, has nothing come of that?
II: I don't see too much other options other than Tautua.
DW: Why does the HRPP have such a dominance? It's effectively had a dictatorship going back 30 odd years.
II: I would probably get into trouble if I used that word (laughs). But one could certainly call it a one party state. Effectively it has been in power since 1982. There was a brief period when it was out of power but most of the government during that brief period were HRPP members anyway, so you pretty much had a continuity of being in power since 1982. I think one of the reasons is they have been quite successful in taking development to rural areas. They have a very strong base in rural areas, a strong relationship with the Fono or village councils. That in part explains their continuity in power but there has been some things they have done while in power that have helped them quite a bit. I think one of those would be the associate ministers - the legislation that provides for associate ministers. Basically that kind of brings the party together, it really helps party discipline when you can pay ministers as well as associate ministers. And I believe both those categories of ministers get more than the opposition.
DW: On the subject of being around for a very long time, Prime Minister Tuilaepa seems to have been there forever and is still going very strong. He has aged considerably I suppose through that time. He has certainly slowed down, hasn't he? He said that he was going to be unopposed in his seat, but he now has a rival. Does he fact a real threat there?
II: I don't think so. I can't see someone beating Tuilaepa from his own constituency. I think the more interesting issue is how long will he continue at the leadership of the HRPP. That's where I think you may see some changes. Not so much in the HRPP going but in terms of who the leadership will be post the election.
DW: Do we know whether he wants to step down himself?
II: I have seen no indication that he wants to step down. But I have heard talk and I think it is pretty solid that there are factions within HRPP, there is a lot of disagreement. Tuilaepa is a key part in holding the party together but I think there have been a number of issues over the last one or two years that have caused fracture in the HRPP an we may see those fractures come to the fore post election.
DW: Was it Tuilaepa at the centre of those fractures?
II: Well he certainly would be at the centre. It revolves around his support for a particular former cabinet member that I think a number of HRPP members were in disagreement with him about. The member was Liunga who was the former minister of lands. And Tuilaepa has supported him through a number of controversial issues and this caused a lot of discontentment in the party over the past year or so. And I think that has started to fracture the party and post-election I think we will see some of those issue bear out.
DW: Can we expect from them then a change in direction?
II: I doubt there will be a change in direction in terms of the reforms that the HRPP have been carrying out. I think the HRPP have had Samoa on a reform path since 1995 and I think it's a bit too difficult to kind of steer them away from that direction now. But you may see a different leadership group come to the fore, or at least a discussion about a different leadership group coming to the fore post-election.
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