9 Apr 2021

Samoa's HRPP party faces stiff challenge as general voting begins

9:53 am on 9 April 2021

General voting is underway across Samoa to decide who will govern the country for the next five years.

After four days of pre-polling, the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) leads with 27 seats, Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) leads in 20 seats, and Tautua Samoa Party leads in one constituency.

There's a dead heat between HRPP and FAST in another constituency.

HRPP which has controlled Samoa for close to four decades, is facing its stiffest challenge yet from FAST.

Samoa Election office staff

Samoa Election office staff Photo: RNZ Pacific/Tipi Autagavaia

Led by former HRPP deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa, FAST looks set to cause major upsets.

It has a chance of taking control of the reins of power.

Three constituencies have returned incumbent members unopposed, including Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi from Lepa, Fiame from Lotofaga and former associate minister Lealailepule Rimoni Aiafi from Faleata 3.

 Voters in Samoa's Auala,Savaii

Voters in Samoa's Auala,Savaii Photo: RNZ Pacific/Monica

Some long serving HRPP members may find it hard to claw their way back in after losing out in the pre-polling.

Former Cabinet Minister Faumuina Tiatia Liuga trails two FAST candidates in the contest for the Palauli 2 seat.

Caretaker Minister of Agriculture, Lopao'o Natanielu Mu'a and FAST rival Niuava Eti Malolo are neck and neck in Vaisigano 1.

Caretaker Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti, trails FAST candidate Matamua Vasati Pulefana in Faasaleleaga #1 but is expected to do well in general polling.

Under fire caretaker Minister of Communications, Afamasaga Rico Tupa'I is still lagging behind a former member for the A'ana Alofi 4 constituency, Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster running for FAST.

Ballot boxes for Samoa general election

Ballot boxes for Samoa general election Photo: RNZ Pacific/Tipi Autagavaia

Also getting a scare is caretake Minister of Works, Tapunuu Niko Lee Hang who faces a sturdy challenge from former Deputy Court Registrar and FAST candidate, Ve'atauia Faatasi Puleiata in the Vaimauga 3 constituency.

Still showing strongly at the close of pre polling is caretaker Minister of Education, Loau Keneti Sio with a commanding lead over FAST challenger, Papalii Moala Tavita Moala.

Local churches are being used as polling stations in the Samoa general election

Local churches are being used as polling stations in the Samoa general election Photo: RNZ Pacific/Monica Miller

HRPP is showing strong polling in several constituencies with new candidates taking commanding leads but it is hard to discard the strong challenge being mounted by FAST.

Our correspondent in Savai'i said this election is just too close to call at this stage.