Duncan Garner: Samoa's political corruption is the reason New Zealand must guard its democracy

OPINION: The Pacific is full of tin-pot dictatorships, but Samoa isn't normally the first to come to mind.

However, it's sadly the headline act right now.

They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely - isn't that the truth in Samoa?

The outgoing Prime Minister of 23 years, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, is struggling to come to terms with the fact he's lost. 

When you've been in charge of everything and the patron of everything else, it's hard to let go.

No, it's not - or it shouldn't be, if you respect democracy, the rule of law and the will of the people.

Clearly, Tuilaepa ditched all that a while back.

But Samoa needs to be careful they don't turn into an international pariah - or rogue state. 

For too long, Tuilaepa has been surrounded by 'yes men' and sycophants.

He's lived in his own bubble where rules were for others - that's why it's so strange and hard for him to accept the result. 

His posse has been telling him what he wants to hear, and the truth goes missing.

There's been all sorts of talk over the years about whether aid money has ended up in the right place, and this is where New Zealand can - and should - act. 

Do we threaten to withhold money? Yes, we should. I'd also audit the last 23 years of Tuilaepea's reign.

But New Zealand says right now, it's up to Samoa to get this right - but this is our neighbourhood. We need strong democracies, not dictatorships you can't trust.

New Zealand must stay out of this for now, but this is the very reason we must guard our democracy from those who want to stuff with it.

I'd have limits on the number of years an MP can serve, 15 years or five terms,  the same for ministers, and Prime Ministers can serve three terms only. If they haven't done their work after all that time, it's not going to be done.

Duncan Garner is the host of The AM Show.