Apia (Samoa) (AFP)
A leading Samoan court on Friday ended a 15-week constitutional crisis, confirming Fiame Naomi Mata’afa as the Pacific island nation’s first female prime minister.
The country has been at a political stalemate since April, when long-ruling Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi narrowly lost in the election and refused to hand over power.
In May, Mata’afa was sworn in in an extraordinary ceremony inside a makeshift tent after his FAST party was locked outside the parliament building.
The Samoa Court of Appeal said it did not recognize Malielegaoi’s interim government, ruling that its Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) was illegally occupying government offices.
He also overturned a previous Supreme Court ruling that swearing in the tent was unconstitutional.
“It is now up to the new Prime Minister and her government to give effect to this judgment and the declaration it contains,” said the Court of Appeal.
“We declare that the swearing in on May 24, 2021 at the Tiafau Malae of elected members of Parliament, is in accordance with the terms of the constitution, the supreme law of Samoa, and therefore legal. “
The decision, which came in response to a call from the FAST party, said Samoa now has a legal government.
“For the avoidance of doubt, this means that there has been a legal government in Samoa since May 24, 2021, and that legal government is the FAST party which holds the majority of seats in parliament,” the court said.
Samoa’s politics have been beset by controversy and legal challenges since the elections, which resulted in a FAST Mata’afa party holding 26 seats, one more than the HRPP out of 51 seats in parliament.
The HRPP had been in power for almost 40 years with Malielegaoi, 76, who claimed to have been “appointed by God”, spending 22 years as prime minister.
© 2021 AFP