6 Mar 2011

Samoa's ruling party retains power with reduced majority

10:25 am on 6 March 2011

Samoa's Human Rights Protection Party has been returned to power in the country's general election, but with a smaller majority.

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was re-elected as Prime Minister unopposed.

The party, which has governed Samoa for almost 30 years, can count on having 36 seats, including some independent support.

Close to 90 percent of the registered voters turned out to elect 49 MPs and vote counting continued past midnight.

The opposition Tautua Samoa Party took 13 seats.

It will be negotiating with independents to get 17 opposition MPs to stop the Government having the two-thirds majority required to change the constitution.

Three government ministers were defeated: Justice Minister Unasa Mesi Galo, Communications Minister Safuneituuga Paga Neri and Eduation Minister Toomata Poese Alapati Toomata.

Only two of the nine women candidates won.

They are Fiame Naomi Mataafa and Gatoloaifaana Amataga Gidlow.

A final count will take up to two weeks and could affect some seats, including that of the leader of Tautua Samoa Va'ai Papu Vailupe, who held his seat by only 25 votes.