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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, March 31) – The ruling party of Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi has been reelected, according to provisional results of the country’s general elections.

With vote counting completed for 40 of the 49 Parliamentary seats; the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) held 26 seats.

Main opposition Samoa Democratic United Party won eight and independents six.

The HRPP was expected to win, but its election day performance was better than predicted in opinion polls.

Since taking over as prime minister in 1998, Mr Tuila'epa has won plaudits for his reforms to modernise the economy of the country of about 175,000 people.

Over 200 candidates competed for 49 seats in parliament. Nearly 80,000 people registered to vote.

[PIR editor’s note: According to The New Zealand Herald, the Samoan tradition of politicians campaigning for the support of whole villages through the matais [chiefs] in return for favorable measures in Parliament has given way in this election to popular advertising.]

One of the opposition groups in Samoa had said that after 20 years of rule by the Human Rights Protection Party, voters were ready for change.

Opposition parties have been highlighting concerns over the cost of living, education and health during their campaigns.

But the incumbent Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele was confident going into the race that the people still support his party.

April 3, 2006

Radio New Zealand International:

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