The Washington Post reports that Fiame Naomi Mata’afa and her followers were not deterred by the bizarre stunt and instead erected a tent on the lawn of the Statehouse where she was sworn in.
The Post notes that this is the latest development in what has been a tumultuous six-week constitutional crisis as Mata’afa’s opponent, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, refuses to cede power.
Malielegaoi has been Prime Minister of the island of about 200,000 inhabitants since 1998.
The crisis began when the national elections ended on April 9 in a 25-25 draw between Mata’afa and Malielegaoi.
The link appears to have been severed when the only independent lawmaker went with Mata’afa, but the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRP), led by Malielegaoi, appointed another HRP lawmaker who reinstated legality.
To resolve the issue, the Post reports that Afioga Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi II, Samoa’s head of state and ally of Malielegaoi, has announced a new election. However, Mata’afa’s FAST Party successfully asked the Supreme Court to cancel the last-minute meeting, which won it the victory.
Despite the decision, normal procedures that would take place with a new prime minister were canceled without explanation, such as the opening of parliament.
“We have to fight this because we want to keep this country as a democratically ruled country based on the rule of law,” Mata’afa told New Zealand news outlet Newshub.
Malielegaoi called Mata’afa’s swearing-in ceremony a “joke,” the Post reports.
“Oh my God, where have we ever seen a sworn President in a tent?” Shameful, ”he reportedly told New Zealand media.
Mata’afa’s rise to power would have international implications as she pledged to prevent the construction of a planned $ 100 million Chinese wharf in Samoa.
The dock was part of the reason she left HRP. Although she has expressed a desire to maintain relations with Beijing, the Post reports that she has challenged Samoa’s $ 150 million increase in debt to China.
The Post reports that international observers appear reluctant to take sides in the crisis that has led two governments to claim the country.
“We have confidence in Samoa’s democracy and its institutions,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, according to the Post.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne called on “all parties [to] respect the rule of law and democratic processes. “