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Pre-polling in Samoa's general election enters day four today.
This is the first election that the Electoral Commission is announcing daily results from the pre-polling.
The ruling Human Rights Protection Party has a slender lead over the less than 12 month old Faatuatua I le Atoa Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party following counting of day three of voting across the country.
Some constituencies have had changes in election results over the three days but some indicate strong support for either HRPP or FAST.
RNZ Pacific correspondent said of interest to observers are early results in constituencies of some of the more outspoken members from the last parliamentary terms.
FAST founder and deputy leader, Laauli Leuatea Schmidt, has a comfortable lead over his female rival and HRPP candidate Faaulusau Stowers.
Vocal FAST member Olo Fiti Vaai is trailing HRPP candidate Tapua'i Faalogo Ve'e at Salega 2 but his equally vocal colleague Leatinuu Wayne Sooialo is also just ahead of his two HRPP rivals at Faleata 2.
Caretaker Minister of Justice Faaolesa Katopau Ainuu is behind after day three of pre polling with FAST candidate Faualo Harry Schuster taking a commanding lead.
Another FAST candidate, Matamua Vasati, is leading in her contest with caretaker Minister of Finance Sili Epa Tuioti for the Faasaleleaga 1 seat.
Caretaker Minister for Communications, Afamasaga Rico Tupai's alleged financial dealings may cause an upset at the A'ana 4 seat, where he trails FAST candidate Toeolesulusulu Cedric
Former American Samoa acting Director of Youth and Women’s Affairs, FAST candidate Pau Roy Ausage is well ahead of his two HRPP rivals at Falelatai and Samatau district.
Today, the remaining 2,458 registered voters for pre polling are all expected to vote from the 8,500 who put their hands up to vote first.
Electoral Commissioner Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio reports that a few polling places opened late because some of the co-opted election officials who were to man the booths changed their minds about working. (Coopted election officials are paid staff from other government departments picked to work for the elections)
“It was good if they had informed us early he said, but to call after 1 am, we had to scramble to find replacements,” Faimalomatumua said.
He was thankful that others were willing to come in and help.
Meanwhile, officials and members of the public at several pre-polling booths have condemned candidates’ election committee members for being present while voters are casting their ballots.
Police Officers and volunteers who spoke with the Samoa Observer confirmed incidents occurring earlier this week where committee members had wandered around voting booths in violation of electoral law.
The officials said that there was a chance that the committee members’ presence outside the booths was designed to influence voters preparing to cast their votes.
“Some members were warned [by Police Officers] to leave the premises if they are not there to vote,” said one of the officials.
A Police Officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media, said that there were complaints from members of the public about candidates turning up at polling booths.
However, he said that some of the candidates had applied for pre-polling and were at the booths to cast their votes.
“But they have to leave after that to avoid [having] any undue influence [on voters],” he said.
The Electoral Commissioner, Faimalomatumua Mathew Lemisio in a media briefing on Tuesday said there were reports from officials about committee members at voting venues.
He urged the committee members to vacate the venue once they had cast their votes.
“If you are not there to vote then you have to leave, rather than crowding around the venue,” he said.
A total of 8,576 voters have been approved to pre-poll from Monday to Thursday this week.
In previous elections, candidates’ campaign committee members were heavily involved on polling days: by transporting voters and even offering them food and monetary gifts.
These practices have since been deemed as corrupt practices under changed laws, despite being seen as a usual occurrence in previous elections.
The Office of the Electoral Commission said that committees are banned from transporting voters to vote or register.
This week's national election is also the first in which new laws making it compulsory for eligible voters to not only register but to vote take effect.
The Office of the Electoral Commission has also made it compulsory for voters to cast their ballots in their areas of residence, to avoid the possibility of treating or bribery in exchange for their votes.
But should committees assist an election candidate in performing approved campaigning methods they were within the rules
SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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