AUCKLAND, New Zealand — The Pacific island nation of Samoa hurtled toward a constitutional crisis on Saturday, when the country’s head of state announced that he was suspending Parliament just two days before it was scheduled to swear in the country’s first new prime minister in more than two decades.
In a single-page letter posted to Facebook, Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, Samoa’s appointed head of state, announced that Parliament would be suspended “until such time as to be announced and for reasons that I will make known in due course.”
Samoa’s Parliament had been scheduled to officially reopen on Monday, fulfilling a constitutional requirement to convene within a 45-day window of the April 9 election. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the leader of the newcomer party FAST, was to be sworn in as prime minister, ending Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi’s 22-year tenure.
Speaking by phone from Samoa early Sunday, Ms. Mata’afa said the proclamation was an attempt to prevent her party from taking power. “This is a coup,” she said. Mr. Tuilaepa could not be reached for comment.
a law meant to ensure that more women serve in Parliament.
To comply with the law, Mr. Tuilaepa had argued, Parliament needed to add another seat, appointing an additional woman from his party, an act that would have given his party enough seats to hold onto the premiership. The argument and a call for a second election were ultimately rejected by the courts.