#OPINION LOOK HOW FAR WE HAVE COME: 10 LESSONS WE MIGHT HAVE LEARNED FROM PALOTA SAMOA 2021
By Va'ai Nah Folasa
Cover photo credit: Office of the Electoral Commission Samoa
While Samoa awaits the final counting of votes and the inevitable legal challenges and appeals, what lessons have we learned from Friday's election?
In no particular order...
1. Never underestimate the power of social media. While Government media outlets (2AP and the Savali) touted the HRPP line, the mainstream press played a cautious approach often several days late with breaking issues. Meanwhile social media was active, timely and while not always correct managed to create debate and focus issues at a mass level. FAST embraced various platforms skillfully and effectively. The belated creation of Facebook page by HRPP was too late, too little and missed the mark completely.
2. Understand that youth have a voice and are confident that their vote can make a difference. Previous elections have witnessed several generations of a family voting the same traditional way. Today's youth are informed (refer above), interested and have priorities which differ to older generations. Clearly they are not afraid to express that and seek change.
3. We have matured immeasurably as a nation and confident with the democratic system and our cultural roots. The passing of the controversial Land and Titles legislation was perceived as messing with not only the Constitution but also with traditional culture and values. This issue alone was perhaps the most divisive across all electorates.
4. Listen to your constituents and stand by your principles. FAST toured the whole country, held meetings in villages, conducted youth rallies and then prepared its manifesto. The 2 main leaders of FAST left the ruling HRPP (and the ministerial privileges which come with it) because of ideological differences. These were not only personal beliefs but also came directly from the constituents whom they were elected to represent. You are voted in by the people. Listen to them.
5. Respect the wisdom and point of view of women. Samoa has readily satisfied the 10% minimum of seats to be held by women. But why stop there? We may well have a female PM with a sound pedigree and experience. This alone should bring greater respect and an attitudinal change within the house at Mulinu'u.
6. Have a strategy and stick to it. The FAST Party had a clear and unwavering strategy from the start. Given the relatively short time since it was established it was focused, professional and able to convey its messages clearly.
7. No need for muck raking. Let's face it parliamentary debate and politics can be a dirty business. We have witnessed many incidents of this and the personal vitriol which has been unleashed on those who may suggest a difference of opinion even when that opinion is that of the constituents. This is not clever debate, mature discussion nor smart politics. It is the stuff of school yard pranks. Play the ball, not the man!
8. More than one candidate per constituency splits the vote. Given that the parliament is ultimately formed by the party with the most single winners in each constituency, why not run just one preferred candidate per seat? Two or more candidates in the same party will split the vote with the potential of allowing an alternative candidate to win. If individuals want to run fair enough but this may be to the disadvantage of the party.
9. Sometimes a "leap of faith" is better than "the devil you know". The HRPP's longevity is due to having strong and vocal leadership. It has worked for many years and Samoa is all the better for it. While in the past there may have been a belief in not rocking the boat or not knowing what the alternative might be, this time not so. The voting public has expressed an overwhelming dissatisfaction with the current party and no longer willing to tolerate verbal bullying, rumours of corruption and a leader who might now be perceived as passed his best before date.
10. Be optimistic. In the few short days since the still unresolved election, there is a feeling of optimism and a new beginning. Change has been embraced and people are looking forward to what this new regime might bring. Whether the new regime is lead by either party remains to be seen. Regardless it is no longer "business as usual".
And a final note: Whichever party is the eventual winner you are On Notice: You have 5 years to prove your worth before we head to the ballot box again.
Va'ai Nah Folasa is a journalist for EyeSpy Radio in Samoa