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WikiLeaks: Samoa elections: 03/04/06

WikiLeaks cable: Samoa elections

This is one of the diplomatic cables about New Zealand held by Wikileaks.

April 3, 2006 SUBJECT: SAMOA ELECTIONS: AUSTRALIA AND NZ PREDICT MORE OF SAME

(U) Classified by Political-Economic Counselor Katherine B. Hadda. Reasons: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Officials of New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and the Australian High Commission (Australian HC) in Wellington have been closely watching Samoa's elections. Both anticipate that a high number of election petitions and a large volume of candidates (especially independents) may delay official results for weeks to come. However a stronger than expected performance by the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) suggests its ultimate victory, the outcome our Kiwi and Aussie contacts predicted before the race. While a couple of HRPP candidates holding high profile portfolios (justice and police) were apparently defeated by independent candidates, none of our contacts believe that the election outcome will substantially change their country's bilateral relationships with Samoa. End Summary.

2. (U) MFAT contacts say preliminary results put Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and his HRPP Party firmly in front with 29 seats (46.2% of the vote), extending its 24-year hold on power in the 49-seat parliament. The main opposition Samoa Democratic United Party (SDUP) claimed 11 seats, with independents claiming eight. One seat in Faasaleleaga No. 3, remains in a draw between an HRPP and SDUP candidate.

3. (C) While the HRPP has managed control of the Samoa government for more than two decades, MFAT officials note that Samoa elections have historically resulted in a 30 to 50% turnover in MPs. Much of this turnover has been between members of HRPP, since in Samoa's 42 electorates more than one member of the same party may contest a seat. For example, five members for the HRPP and three members of the SDUP contested in Faasaleleaga No. 1 electorate. (Like several electorates, Faasaleleaga No 1, also has two electorate seats.) The only other seat that has not been preliminary called is Faleata East, where both candidates come from HRPP.

4. (C) Further complicating election arithmetic is the sheer number of candidates: 211 for 49 seats. HRPP fielded more than a third of candidates, with 78. As MFAT officials note, this high volume dilutes the vote count among each candidate. A candidate challenging election results in his or her district needs only to have received half the number of votes that the putative winner received. As each of the many candidates tend to receive few votes, this is a relatively low threshold. In the 2001 election cycle, the resolution of 10 election petitions delayed official election results for two weeks. Both Australian HC and MFAT officials predict a longer election delay this cycle, as a number of affidavits had been filed even prior to the election and the court system is poorly positioned to manage an increased volume.

However, MFAT believes that HRPP will remain on top, especially since several of the close races have SDUP candidates only slightly ahead of their HRPP opponents.

5. (C) MFAT officials also noted that independent candidates are an important, third factor for predicting the final election outcome. In the 2001 elections, a dozen independent candidates won seats -- roughly 25% of parliament.

Candidates are not bound to their party alignment until they are sworn in as MPs, meaning that a large number of independents could continue to hold sway over the balance of power. However, this year preliminary results show only eight seats falling to independents. They may therefore play a less significant role in the formation of government this time around. MFAT officials also expect to see several independents join the ranks of HRPP in the coming days and weeks.

McCormick

ENDS

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