For the last 23 years
The major planks in the HRPP election platform are economic growth and infrastructure development. Tuilaepa, and the Deputy PM and Finance Minister Misa Telefoni, regularly point to the sustained economic growth
Is this enough to get the HRPP over the line? Many suspect it is, but there is a growing sense of tiredness at the continued rule of the HRPP. Le Mamea R Mualia, head of the main opposition party the Samoa Democratic United Party (SDUP), has been polling very well over the last couple of months. He has consistently polled ahead of Tuilaepa as preferred leader and the SDUP has enjoyed several poll "wins" ahead of the HRPP.
The SDUP has focused on three main areas for its campaign: health, education and governance. If elected, the SDUP would conduct a review of teachers' pay and make a strong push to provide free and compulsory primary education. This has been received quite well but it is perhaps the issue of health that resonates strongest with the Samoan people, thanks to the bitter pill of an eleven week strike by
Two major problems plague the public health system of
A more immediate challenge for the present Minister for Health is election rival Su'a Rimoni Ah Chong. Su'a, head of the Samoa Party (SP), is perhaps the most outspoken of all the party leaders. Whilst the SP and the SDUP share their concern about governance, it is Su'a who has really championed this issue ahead of all others.
Su'a is well qualified to campaign on this issue, as he was formerly the Samoa Controller and Chief Auditor. In this role, Su'a issued a report in the mid nineties that implicated a number of cabinet ministers and senior government officials for fraud and other misdemeanors. The report led to his dismissal and amendment of the Samoan Constitution.
Su'a wants to see independence brought back to many government portfolios, most notably the oversight agencies of the Audit, Electoral Commissioner and the Attorney General offices. A significant reduction in government wastage features strongly in the SP manifesto as well.
Are these issues really the ones foremost in the minds of most Samoan voters? The issues of health and education most certainly hold the interest of the voting public but other issues such as land ownership are also extremely important. There are currently two large land title claims before court and allegations made by the SDUP and SP last week have put the HRPP under scrutiny. The allegations hold that the HRPP reached an agreement with the World Bank to reform the ownership of customary land (which represents 80% of all land in
In spite of these concerns, it would seem that the HRPP are going to win the election. Most of the people I have spoken with about the election seem pretty convinced of that. By themselves, neither the SDUP nor the SP would ever have the numbers to form a majority government, and with the HRPP fielding twice as many candidates as the SDUP (which has fielded more than the SP), the numbers do seem to stack up in the HRPP’s favour.
Still, the SDUP in particular have done well to present themselves as a credible alternative government. They have argued their platform consistently, clearly and early. It’s a lesson the Australian opposition parties could do well to learn from.