If we are talking about a system of governance that have been traditionally acceptable to the people (i.e. a leadership structure that is based on ‘kinship’) then an argument can be built to suggest that not only is there an opportunity for liberal democracy in Samoa, but that it is already being executed. That summates the first stream of thought. However, if democracy is defined within the parameters of whether or not all peoples have a direct say/input into governmental decisions and policies then a perspective can be built which suggests that an opportunity for ‘liberal democracy’ may be minimal if non-existent. This is the second stream of thought.
OVERVIEW of HISTORY: In Western Samoa, the Mau moved into an independence movement but, once steps were taken in the 1950’s towards independence, it dissolved, and members were chosen by chiefly consultations in each electorate. It was decades before conventional political parties emerged in Samoa and these party boundaries are still relatively fluid (Crocombe, pg. 423). The growing contention over the ‘fluidity’ of a government structure centered upon kinship and customary law - that is understood ‘innately’ is a source of dissentWESTMINSTER SYSTEM: (the British model) – The Executive is accountable to the Legislature, with the executive agencies coming legislature (or ‘Fono’) and the members themselves sit in parliament. This is different to the US system, which is characterized by a separation of powers. I.e. In the Westminster system, the head of government is also the leading figure in parliament. CHIEFLY SYSTEM: In Samoa, the Legislative Assembly (Fono) has 49 members, each elected for a 5-year term. 47 members elected by voters are affiliated with traditional village based electoral districts, 2 are elected by independent mostly non-Samoan or part-Samoan voters who cannot, (or choose not to) establish a village affiliation. Thus, only chiefs (Matai) may stand for election to the Legislative Assembly from the 47 village-based electorates.
MAJORITY SYSTEM: With the majority election system, only one member of parliament is to be elected per constituency [area and group of voters living there in that is taken as a unit in the election process MOST QUALIFIED person selected.NOTE: With the majority election system, small parties have no chance to win a mandate unless there are some constituencies with a population having political views differing much from those in the rest of the country. With the size constituencies in big nations do have (some 100,000 voters) this is rather unlikely. Therefore the majority election system will inevitably lead to parties uniting or building blocks (tight alliances) until only two major players remain on the political scene. So voters are forced to select between the candidates of two big parties basically. While the this tends to create a stable parliamentary majority for the government it is not likely to represent a pluralistic modern society adequately.Supporters of a minority party might feel not being represented by the member of parliament rooted in their region because he or she represents the other party and other political concepts.Vaa: culture isn’t understood according to the metaphysical rights encouraged in western society.Rights are based on blood connection or kinshipCHANGE SLIDE: Usitai definition
Election process: All extended family members had to attend to select next Matai title.If opposition, the meeting was extended until resolution.
Bad policy often passes through the LA, opposition members stating that they often receive information too late, after the issue has been discussed by parliamentary committees and when the proposal is almost at voting stage.Auditor general: ensure transparency on how public goods are spent (reports)Extended time period: (effectively ensured maintenance on power for extra 2 years)VAGST: 4 cyclones, taro blight (second largest revenue), didn’t tell public how much goods would increase by, tax added twice.
*This causes tensions between traditional and non-traditional approaches to policy-making: Previously, Samoan political conceptualization was based on decision-making occurring in an open setting and good were publically distributed. The western system of political conduct at the national level, by contrast, encourages a high degree of ‘privacy, closed door interaction and negotiating’**Challenges to traditional decision-making / causes conflict.
Roland Rich: Non-democratic on grounds of ‘equity’, ‘fairness’ ULIMALTELY NB – consider what we mean by ‘education’ (sounds as though we are superior).
QUOTE: ‘While both male and female have a right to be matai, it is more usual for males to be offered this role and for female family members to defer to their brothers taking this role. As a result there are fewer women matai and so, fewer women eligible to stand for parliament, fewer women in parliament – a situation which perpetuates the view that women have no place in political or public life. A common response has been that more women should take matai titles. However, in a significant number of villages there are rules that only males can be matai. This is unconstitutional and also not in accordance to traditional Samoan custom’
SHOWS; that men and women fulfill TWO SEPARATE yet complimentary functions.
Disputes over land-rights cited as examples of why customary law won’t work BUT really it’s the break-down of the faegaiga that causes conflict.
What does equality even mean? Ask the question WHY? Maybe they lost the election… conceptualizations of what constitutes a woman, not necessarily based biology but do they represent the society to which they belong (ref Obama, Greer re Gillard).
Womens seats are ‘temporary special measures’ (UN recommendations) in order to transition towards equality. Some argue that this is necessary but that they won’t go back to this process. SO we have changed the role and we need to reinforce a positive change?? How do we determine a positive change? Argument also that change is happening slowely in other legitimate ways.
NOTE: Discrimination against men! Difficulties in writing policy to protect traditional village roles are difficult (if not impossible), highlighting the tensions between western and pacific notions of what constitutes a ‘liberal democracy’.** Perhaps part of the problem lies in the fact that traditional village law wasn’t written into formal documents, but rather understood innately.
Carol Kidu (Png) : only current female leader in parliament, served as the minister for community development beneath the PM 2002-2011 Difficult to trace because commonly occurs within the law – as long as public funds aren’t abused then independent candidates or parties in the pacific do not have to disclose funding by ‘private’ parties.
Economic (the prestige of living overseas and earning a larger wage, available through better education)Social (obligations to join family overseas but also to support family back in Samoa)NOTE: in 1998, Samoa receives US $39.53 million in remittances, almost equivalent to the US $4.9 million of international aid (probably more as informal)
One example of corrupt practice includes when politicians stuffed the sandwiches with $10 notes and calling it ‘meat’ to win favour with the electorate.
NOTE: advanced exposure comparative to other candidates – campaign and district offices are quickly established and funding is provided so that campaigners can travel through the electorate, appealing to the local village levelFunding to establish relationships with villagers is especially critical ** Coherent policy (food), maintain skills in nation, raise standards of education to an international standard (balancing old customs with the new) tracking more stringently the amount of remittances that enter into the country (cash and donations), maintain youth interest in Matai titles…
the rules of politics differ from those of the family and village, which have progressively transformed the electoral process(as witnessed by the transition to ‘universal suffrage’, where non-Matai could vote). This is turn is placing increasing pressure on the ‘state’ to take into consideration international norms about human rights – particularly those relating to the right for freedom of expression. The judiciary, for example, has the responsibility to ensure individual rights with respect to elections and freedom of religious expression. So’o observes that ‘village politics’ have a tendency to avoid these decisions but that their power to over-ride the judiciary is becoming circumvented by the population migration from rural to urban centers such as North-West Upolu and Apia, citing that the influence of national politics and trends will grow. So’o ultimately argues that increase of ‘dissent’ (caused by increased circulation of information, higher levels of education particularly among young women, greater emphasis on market economics and the acquisition of personal wealth) will cause family and village politics to disappear, as ‘consensus’ is nullified by dissent. NB – what are the implications of this in Melanesia where there are even smaller population groups? The diversity across the region (many languages and religions): when samoa was being colonized there was a decision to make sure that the governance structure was ‘legitimate’ to the peoples, in PNG this conveyed in them having to construct ideas and concensus by obtaining the constituional agreement based on embodying the values of the population at large. It’s a different society, but that’s why the Samoan example is so interesting.
Pol317 samoa presentation
INDEPENDENT STATE OF SAMOA„Government Politics: Elections, political parties andnational policy-making‟
PRESENTATION OUTLINE Western Samoa is located in Nature of Democracy Polynesia Outline of the key features of the current political system Importance of custom in determining electoral outcomes: „Usita‟i and emphasis on the „collective‟ Political Party Influence on public policy: Problems caused (and faced) by the current political party: 3 examples * Focal points for government priorities, policies and actions: Women (FDI/FA) and Outmigration.
A LIBERAL DEMOCRACY?Q. What do you think are the defining characteristics of a liberal democracy?
THE TWO STREAMS OF THOUGHT **1. Acceptable / legitimate 2. All people having „equal say‟government to the people [First [Second Stream of Thought: SST]Stream of Thought: FST]Traditional Samoan approach to Western approach to governance ingovernance based on kinship and which every individual has equal say /blood ties i.e. Matai system opportunity to represent the constituency
SAMOA‟S GOVERNANCE STRUCTURE: KEYFEATURES OF THE CURRENT POLITICAL SYSTEM Name: Independent State of Samoa (Western Samoa)* Independence: 1962 System: Combines Westminster system w/ ‘Fa’a Matai ** Precedence in region: free from colonial rule Initial focus: to preserve Samoan custom Chiefly system: 49 (47 Matai, 2 Independent) *** Universal suffrage: 1991
IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOM: DETERMININGELECTORAL OUTCOMES Electoral contests: Majority system * Voters: residents, 21 years old, clean record Electors: MUST be Matai title holders FAIR? Critiqued by the SST: all members should have the „right‟ to represent the constituent. Defended by Va‟a: collectivity: **“human rights…are something embodied by culture and attached to social action”.„Usitai‟: All members of society support each other and in doing so are equally supported.
IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOM: EMPHASIS ON THE„COLLECTIVE‟“ Usitai (obedience): „…is of utmost importance in the parent- child, chief-taulealea, senior-junior and other types of close-knit relationships. In Samoan society, it is a maxim that some give orders, for example, parents to their children, chiefs to their serving me, and others obey, for example children to their parents, serving men to their Matai, younger to the elder. The justification is that this practice is sanctioned by society for the good of all its members” [emphasis added].(Grogan)
IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOM: EMPHASIS ON THE„COLLECTIVE‟ „Collective‟ = consensus in selecting Matai „Election‟ process of the Matai (all members of aiga had input)* FST: legitimate authority through collective selection of Matai = Liberal democracy?? Crocombe: “In Samoa, every second man over 30 years of age is a Matai. In Tonga, there is one chief for every 4,000 people. So although only chiefs stand for parliament in Samoa, every family is represented.”
POLITICAL PARTIES INFLUENCE: PUBLICPOLICY Political party – product of „centralized govt‟, NOT kinship (Crocombe), emerged with elected governments Samoa: 8 members to qualify for a political party 2007-2008, no opposition = absence of political opposition in the Legislative Assembly: still a majority/block system? Or Monopolistic?
THE KEY POLITICAL PARTY: AN UNCHECKEDPOWER-BROKER? Problems:(a) Ability to block „bad policy‟ restricted by lack of information(b) Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) majority power for 22 years – passed very controversial bills.- Auditor General- Extended time period between elections (3-5 years)- Value Added Goods and Services Tax (VAGST) “The tax increased the value of goods and services by 10 percent. At the same time the VAGST was introduced, the government also increased the price of goods and services…the combined increases had a dramatic effect on the price of goods; in total prices rose by 25 percent, sometimes even 30 percent. For example, raw sugar had a pre-VAGST amount of 0.50 cents per pound. The price of raw sugar as of 4th January 1999 was $0.63 cents per pound. (Huffer)A liberal democracy??
THE KEY POLITICAL PARTIES‟ INFLUENCE:CAN WE JUSTIFY THIS?! So‟o: external pressures eroding traditional forms of government by „pushing the market‟*- Extending role of Matai- Increased emphasis on „privacy‟ ** (Goals Increases to GDP (4-5%), reduce inflation average (2-3%) and BOP statements) FST: Liberal democracy achieved? Conflict over decision-making processes; trying to achieve „collective‟ good for society by imp. Overall economic conditions.***
FOCAL POINTS FOR GOVT. PRIORITIES,POLICIES & ACTIONS: WOMEN IN POLITICS Women‟s issues will be under-represented in parliament:“One thing that we are infamous for is being the least represented by women in the world…. I would think that is a fair comment in terms of what is happening in the Pacific, and the level of development in our respective countries…although this does vary within the Pacific.”(Faime Naomi Mata‟afa; Current Minister for Women,Community and Social Development) “Democracy = Development” (Roland Rich)
FOCAL POINTS: WOMEN IN POLITICS – WHYTHE DISCREPANCY? Only Matai’s qualify for titles, some females hold titles but vast majority are men.- Increased rivalry over the titles- Proliferation of titles(minimizes women‟s ability to be „behind the scenes power brokers‟.).*Fraenkal: democracy requiresa) Non-Matai to run for parliamentb) Review villages where women can not run for election (reform through education).BUT: will erode this erode traditional Samoan
FOCAL POINTS: WOMEN IN POLITICS – HOWDO WE BRIDGE THE GAP? A „traditionalist‟ approach to liberal democracy- 4 females in parliament (higher figure) „Faegaiga‟ (customary Law)- Men (land rights, family titles, represent family in village fono)- Women (lead social rituals and power of Veto over political decisions.*Samoan approach to governance undermined by western impositions re: what constitutes democracy??
FOCAL POINTS: WOMEN IN POLITICS – HOWDO WE BRIDGE THE GAP? “Samoans managed to solve the problems of gender inequality long before Westerners came forward with their own notions of equality, which appear rational on paper, but still bear some unresolved conflicts. For example, if husbands and wives have equal rights, it means they also have the equal right to work but what happens to the children? Who is going to look after them? Is that not the fundamental reason for their getting married in the first place? In other words, in the faa-Samoa, equality without context is meaningless!” (Vaa) NOTE:why women who subscribe to customary rights are dismissive of campaigning for „more rights‟ as a government priority!!
FOCAL POINT: WOMEN IN POLITICS – RE-WRITING POLICY Q. How would you ensure that women are more equally represented in parliament? What policies would you implement? Given discussion so far is this even a valid question? AND Is this possible, without admonishing the Matai system?
FOCAL POINT: WOMEN IN POLITICS – RE-WRITING POLICYPossible Solutions (reform according to western liberal democracy model)1a. Reserved seats for women: this normally entails eligible citizens having more than one vote (one in the „general‟ constituency and another in the „reserved women‟s‟ constituency.1b. Activism by civil society organizations (aimed at increasing women‟s representation and the emergence of credible women candidates – should this include women with non-Matai titles?)1b.a Statuary affirmative action programs will need to be complimented by broader popular pressure to alter the sex imbalance in parliament (so that women in reserved seats do not become „token MP‟s‟ without any decision-making authority).1c. Voluntary party quotas for women (increase support and establish competition between parties on sex balance issues).1d. Public funding aimed at assisting women candidates (training for „women in politics, subsidies enabling media air-time, tax-breaks or refunds on campaign expenditures).
FOCAL POINT: WOMEN IN POLITICS – RE-WRITING POLICY Q. What is the problem with this from the perspective of a woman who subscribes to customary norms and law? ** 2a. Education about how the system works so that even at the village level people are informed
FOCAL POINT: WOMEN IN POLITICS –FOREIGN AID An alternate perspective: Foreign donors, in pursuing market interests, marginalize women in parliament further: “Foreign donors sometimes back favored political parties or pliant candidates, or, as is frequently the case with big mining or logging interests, hedge their bets by backing numerous rival parties. Usually, both types of donations – those which fund the politicians, and those which are received by the voters – are to „big men‟, village headmen, male chiefs and male politicians 50 Women‟s marginal position in money politics thus becomes another means of ensuring their marginalization from Pacific parliaments.” *** (Fraenkal)
FOCAL POINT: OUTMIGRATION Conflict between traditional governance and that of the west:(a) Economic(b) Social Collective motivation„Fa‟alavelave‟: obligations persons have to their aiga to distribute material wealth (Gough), returns as „remittances‟**
FOCAL POINT: OUTMIGRATION The discrepancy between the incomes of foreign nationals compared to those living in Samoa heightens corrupt practice in election processes.(a) Remittances (informal / gifts to Aiga)Issues: buy titles, fund favored political candidates, confusion between „gift-giving‟ & bribery
FOCAL POINT: OUTMIGRATION Illegal for politicians to accept bribes – parliamentarians regularly lose seats for exercising „undue influence‟.- Unclear policy re: constitution of briberyNO FOOD but sandwiches and tea?? **
FOCAL POINT: OUTMIGRATION Primary issue: remittances being used as „early money‟. * „Being known‟ (an advantage for incumbents or candidates with provincial government backgrounds) or kinship links with famous politicians, establishment of local campaigning networks and manipulation of client relationships can prove critical to victory.”A liberal democracy: less collectivist/more individualist due to time abroad – considering over representation of candidates forced to defend their election victories on claims of „treating‟.Q. What policies would you implement to limit the impact of remittances on manipulating the electorate? What other policy issues stem from out-migration? **
CONCLUSION Samoan governance - in being constructed around certain assumptions (shared beliefs, values and practices) is becoming increasingly contentious. This is causative of the pressures placed upon traditional systems of government by the global environment, which in turn has triggered internal conflict and dissention within Samoa. None-the-less traditional forms of governance are valid to Samoan society, representing a form of „liberal-democracy‟ that is justifiable given that many of the aspects align with the „Pacific Way‟.