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20 members House appears evenly split on 2 candidates

By Fili Sagapolutele PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, Jan. 2, 2011) – In the 21-members of the local House of Representatives in American Samoa will be sworn in on Jan. 3, followed by the election of the House Speaker where there is still no candidate with a majority of votes needed to win outright.

In accordance with local law, the members takes the oath of office at 12-noon, to be held inside the House Chambers. Chief Election Officer Soliai Tuipine Fuimaono will be present to officially certify that each lawmaker is qualified to take the oath of office, which is expected to be administered by Chief Justice Michael Kruse.

Following the oath of office ceremony, is the election of the House Speaker, which will be the responsibility of the 20 members elected to office with each having a full vote on the House floor. This means the 21st member of the House, the non-voting delegate from Swains Islands, plays no role in the election of a Speaker which is in accordance with the law and the constitution.

Two candidates are vying for the post, Speaker Savali Talavou Ale and Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai. To become the House leader, a candidate must receive eleven votes. As the New Year 2011 was ushered in the morning of Jan. 1, there was still no solid confirmation as to whether either of the two candidates have the required votes, say sources who also confirm that each candidate has 10 supporters.

Between last Friday and prior to Jan. 3 vote, there has been strong campaigning to attract at least one vote by both camps and as reported by Samoa News last Friday, the targets of the campaign are the newly elected House members. Samoa News learned last Friday that in both camps, there is at lease one newly elected faipule, who appears not committed.

"All incumbents are firm in their commitment to who they want to be Speaker, aid one incumbent on Saturday morning. Each side is working to secure that one more vote needed for the required majority votes of eleven."

Once the House Speaker is elected, the next item on the agenda for Monday is to elect the Chief Clerk of the House and the House Sargent-at-arms.

Whoever wins the House Speakership, that individual has a very important role to play in the American Samoa Government operations. Local statute states that in case of a permanent vacancy in the offices of both the Governor and Lieutenant Governor, the office of Governor shall be filled by the Speaker of the House for the unexpired term.

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