Samoa: Women candidates mixed views on entering Parliament through quota system

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01st March, 2021

APIA, 02 MARCH 2021 (TALAMUA ONLINE NEWS) — There are mixed opinions expressed by six Samoan women candidates for the upcoming general election on women entering Parliament on their own merits or by the existing 10 percent quota.

The candidates were invited to the media training for election reporting in preparation for the April 2021 general election.

The quota is an effort to ensure 10 percent of Members of Parliament after every general election, are women. In the 2016 election, only four women were elected and the woman candidate with the highest percentage was then chosen to make up the numbers. But it is the label of a woman MP who was elected through the percentage that does not ring well with some women candidates and MPs.

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Independent MP, Fiame Naomi Mataafa supports the quota but also cautions women not to think that the quota is the only way women can get into Parliament.

Mataafa has been in parliament since 1985 and elected through the normal vote. This year, she is one of three who are unopposed and will soon be declared elected.

“The quota does not limit women’s chances of representation, and Samoa is not the only country with such process,” she said.

“If more women win the election, then there is no need to exercise the quota.”

Candidates for Vaa o Fonoti, Taumainamoe Fui Tuimalatu and Fiso Taranaki Mailei of Palauli No.1 both have reservations for the quota.

“The quota defeats the whole purpose of equality,” said Taumainamoe – a Human Rights Protection Party candidate.

“It’s a game of merits and excellence and being a woman,” she said.

Fiso Taranaki Mailei, competing under the Tautua Samoa party flag, agrees with Taumainamoe.

She said women cannot want the quota and equality at the same time.

“It has to be one or the other, because the quota has a double meaning, and I would be very offended if I’m labelled as someone who is just there to make the numbers – fa’atumu pu.”

The 10 percent quota came into effect in the 2016 general election and second MP for Gagaifomauga 3, Faaulusau Rosa Stowers was the first to be elected through the system.

Whilst Samoa’s system has been watched closely by neighbouring island governments, Mataafa said it did not deter Faaulusau from voicing her frustration over the seat at one of the international conferences they attended.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Samoa, Simona Marinescu supports the quota.

“We think the quota is important because of its special measure and we hope to have more than 10% of women in the next Parliament,” she said.

Marinescu also said the quota is only necessary up to the point when there is no need for it because women are able to run if they wish without restrictions.

“We hope that within that quota, the best women are going to be in Parliament, but still the behavioural change is a slow process, so we want to give an opportunity to women to demonstrate that they bring value to Parliament,” said Marinescu

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