Samoa PM won’t budge on voter registration

PINA / SAMOA OBSERVER – 04:18 am GMT+12, 09/10/2020, Samoa

Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said the Government will not extend the deadline for voter registration, after hundreds were left locked outside the Office of the Electoral Commission on Thursday.  
Thursday was the final day for voters to complete their compulsory voter registration and there had been a huge rush to register to vote in the lead up to deadline.  
But the Prime Minister said the Government would show no leniency.  
“If they postpone the registration, it may hinder the election process, given the Electoral Commissioner’s schedule for election office [events] leading up to the election,” Tuilaepa said.  
In the last two days of registration, the Electoral office located at the SNPF plaza was packed with hundreds in line starting from Tuesday morning.  
The registration moved to the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa hall in Mulinu’u on Thursday.  
Registration, which started at 8.30am ended at 4pm on Thursday; yet by about 7pm, hundreds of people are still in line waiting to be registered.  
On Thursday more than 10 people fainted and were taken to the hospital as a result.   
The Prime Minister, speaking during his 2AP radio programme on Thursday, said the Government will not budge.  
“This is the same issue with the closing hours for the supermarket at the time the government was enforcing the state of emergency restrictions, people always wait until the last minute,” Tuilaepa said.  
Tuilaepa drew an analogy between a supermarket near his house which has a rush of clientele 15 minutes before closing time.  
“[People] always wait until the last minute,” he said.  
He said this was one area he claims voters were used by candidates to be brought in to register.  
“If we postpone now, this will become a trend for every time there is an election people will want to adjourn the registration time, but the problem is the Office of the Electoral Commission has their schedule panned out leading up to the election,” the Prime Minister said.  
“If we postpone now, it may have an impact on the day of the election and we may have to postpone the election as well.”
He jokingly said to those that missed the registration to pray hard for money to pay their penalty fine.  
Earlier this week, the Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio, said those who are 21 and older who fail to register to vote commit an offence and are liable upon conviction to pay a fine not exceeding $2,000 tala under the Electoral Act 2019.
He also assured that the registration of voters’ deadline will not be shifted, “as long as the law is concerned, it must close at 4 pm [Thursday].”
The Commissioner said the initial target of its electoral registration drive beginning last year was to enroll 11,500 eligible voters based on statistics from 2016 of people who should be 21 by April next year.
But last Sunday, the Office’s headcount of voters exceeded over 12,000.
Electoral Commissioner Faimalo Mathew Lemisio said compared to the last election, people were being more proactive in turning up to register.



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