Samoa Observer

APIA, Samoa (May 14, 2010) - In Samoa, today’s by-elections represent the first gauge of the public mood since the last general elections.

Already the Tautua Samoa Party has claimed history has been made when its candidate was unopposed.

The party says it’s the first ever by-election defeat for the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP).

However, today’s two contested by-elections may well offer some insight into what is in the minds of the electorate.

Just one win for Tautua would spark speculation that the country is in the mood for change. Two wins would leave the party supremely confident about the pending general elections.

In that event, of course, the HRPP would point out that the by-elections were fought on local issues and personalities and meant little or nothing in the big electoral picture.

If the voters decide to return the HRPP candidate or candidates, the reaction will be quite different. It will then be a reliable indication that the nation is not ready for a change of government.

Well, that’s the nature of politics.

It’s difficult to say how much today’s outcome will tell us about voting intentions in next year’s general elections, but in the absence of any other measure of opinion, it will be closely examined.

We can be sure that the candidates will not be the only ones eager to know the results tonight. For every electoral nuance will be carefully scanned by the party organizers and members.

Tautua is standing single candidates in each constituency while the HRPP has a bet each way by fielding two candidates in each. No doubt the party has thought this through – but surely there is a risk of splitting the HRPP vote.

We’ll know the answer to that tonight.

In any event, today’s voting is critical as far as the newcomer Taututa is concerned. It has to establish itself as an alternative government going into the general elections and that’s far from an easy task.

It has no history of governing and its members are not always as well known as their future opponents in that general election.

So, Tautua’s hopes rest squarely on the public mood. If there is a movement towards change, things will go well for them. If not, the HRPP will govern again.

It’s often said – usually correctly – that oppositions don’t win elections, governments lose them, an adage not lost on the HRPP leadership so, once again, any indication of the public mood will be immediately seized upon, analyzed and commented upon.

Today then the voters of Faleata West and Safata find themselves the focus of national politics.

All the candidates are – of course – confident of victory going into the election but as always the voters will have the final say.

It’s their opinion that counts and it’s their verdict that the country will be so eager to hear this evening.

Will the Tautua threat to HRPP supremacy be nipped in the bud by the voters, or will the new party gain a toehold in Parliament leading up to the general election due next year?

We’ll know tonight and then the politicking will begin in earnest.

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