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Electoral Court vacates Member of Parliament Hunt’s seat

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 27, 2011) – The first of eight election petition rulings in Samoa’s Electoral Court has found both the petitioner, former Member of Parliament Moefa’auo Lufilufi and respondent, the current ruling party Member of Parliament Ala’isa Filipo Schwartz Hunt, guilty of bribery.

The presiding judges also declared Mr Schwartz-Hunt’s parliamentary seat void, which means a by-election will have to be held just weeks after the general election.

Our correspondent in Apia, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, says the ruling relates to proven allegations of giving money to electors before last month’s poll.

"The allegations against the respondent proven were three. These are the allegations of giving 100 tala, 50 tala and 200 tala to several electors of different villages of the lower Ma’a East constituency. But the petitoner has also been found guilty of five bribery counter allegations."

[PIR editor’s note: RNZI also reports that the Electoral Court will prepare a report for the parliamentary speaker about the role being played by village mayors in election campaigns. The court’s ruling says both Moefa’auo Lufilufi and Ala’isa Filipo Schwartz Hunt set poor examples for the village to follow, in particular to the young and impressionable members of the community. The court has also pointed out it is disconcerting that a public official with a high standing in a village should be permitted to use his office to promote political views or a particular candidate’s agenda. ]

Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia says both parties have been disqualified from taking part in elections for five years.

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