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Universal Suffrage in Western Samoa: The 1991 General Elections

CollectionsANU Pacific Institute
Title: Universal Suffrage in Western Samoa: The 1991 General Elections
Author(s): So'o, Asofou
Publisher: Canberra, ACT : Dept. of Political and Social Change, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University.
Series/Report no.: Regime Change and Maintenance in Asia and the Pacific. Discussion paper series: No. 10
Since 1962 Western Samoa has been an independent state with a parliamentary system of government. The one-chamber parliament consists of a House of Assembly with 47 members, whose composition and method of election has reflected a specifically Samoan form of political democracy which blends tradi tion with modernity. In terms of both eligibility for election and eligibility to vote at elections, a dual system operated until 1991 . Of the 47 members of parliament (MPs), 45 were required to be matai (chief) elected by a system of matai suffrage, while two were non-matai representatives elected by individual voters under a system of qualified adult suffrage. The introduction in 1 99 1 ofuniversal non-compulsory suffrage to elect the 45 matai MPs transformed the electoral system by entitling all persons aged 2 1 years and over to vote for matai candidates in their electorate, thereby ensuring that all citizens have equal political rights in the election of parliament, and that all members of parliament represent, and are responsible to, their constituency and to the overall Samoan population. Thus, universal suffrage may be regarded as a giant step in the process of democratizing Samoan politics and in legitimizing parliamentary rule. Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that the composition of parliamentremains unaltered: only matai are eligible for election to 45 of the 47 seats in parliament; the political system continues to be based on both traditional and modem forms.
ISBN: 0731515463
ISSN: 1037-1036


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