Samoan Prime Minister reportedly 'finding it difficult to let go' after 23 years in power, hasn't conceded

Samoa's Prime Minister-elect says her predecessor is "finding it very difficult to let go of the reins" after losing the country's deadlocked election.

The Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) was up against the opposition FAST party in the 2021 election, but after the votes were counted, quotas filled and an independent vote cast, the parties were locked in a tie 26-26.

On Monday the Supreme Court threw out a move by the Electoral Commission to appoint an extra female MP, and overruled a move by the Head of State for new elections to be held on Friday. 

The decision will likely mean HRPP, which has held power for around 40 years, will relinquish the reins. It will also see Fiame Naomi Mata'afa become the first female Prime Minister of Samoa.

Mata'afa told The AM Show on Tuesday they are now in the process of finalising the decision.

"We still have to go through the procedure now that the court brought down the decision yesterday," she said. 

"We will now inform the clerk of the house of our numbers and of our key positions. He will then inform the Head of State who will inform Parliament. We have 45 days from the day of the election on April 9 and that will come due Monday next week. We hope that we can conclude on that process now the court made their decision." 

But she said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who has held the position for 23 years, is yet to concede. It is understood on Monday he launched an appeal over the court rulings.

"It's the convention in democratic countries that a losing leader concedes but obviously he is not following the concession. I think Tuilaepa is finding it very difficult to let go of the reins. The lengths that they went to in bringing in an extra member of Parliament voiding the last election, I think that's a reflection of just how much he wants to hold onto power."

When the decision is finalised, Mata'afa will make history as the country's first female Prime Minister, but she told The AM Show she didn't think it was surprising.

She has had a long history in politics - her father was the first Prime Minister of Western Samoa, and she previously was a part of HRPP Party.

"I do come from a political family, I grew up in that environment, so I don't think it is surprising although I have never felt entitled to the position, I'm more interested in the process of governance and making a contribution through my constituency... My concern of why I walked away from the HRPP is because I saw real erosion of the rule of law."