4 Mar 2016

Voting underway in Samoa's general election

11:36 am on 4 March 2016
Voters line up to have their say in Samoa's 2016 general election.

Voters line up to have their say in Samoa's 2016 general election. Photo: RNZI/Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

Polling is underway in Samoa's general election.

Voting opened an hour earlier than usual, at 8am, and is set to close at 3pm.

There are 164 candidates contesting the election today, 81 from the ruling Human Rights Protection Party, 23 from the opposition Tautua Samoa Party and 60 independent candidates.

This is the first year women candidates have been guaranteed five of the 49 seats in Parliament, and this year boasts a record 24 women candidates.

One woman candidate, the caretaker Minister of Justice, Fiame Naomi Mataafa has already secured her place in Parliament, running unopposed in the Lotofaga constituency.

The caretaker Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, is among the three other candidates unopposed.

Our correspondent, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia said the Tautua Samoa party leader, Palusalue Faapo II, faces a tough contest in his constituency.

He said an amendment to the electoral act reduced all constituenies with two seats in Parliament, to just one seat, and Palusalue's 'Sapata Sifo' constituency is one them.

"So the current HRPP party member of parliament and caretaker minister of works, Manu'alesagalala Enokati Posala, is now running against the Tautua Samoa Party leader Palusalue Faapo II. Both candidates are very very strong in their support from the voters."

Autagavaia says polling has been conducted peacefully so far.

Results are expected to start coming in from as early as 4pm onwards, and a liquor ban, put in place to ensure the smooth running of the polls, and to keep the peace, is in place until 6am Saturday.