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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Q&A: Samoa elections
Incumbent Samoan Prime Minister Tuliaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi has been prime minister since 1998

Samoa goes to the polls on 31 March to elect the 49 members of its parliament, the Fono Aoao Faitulafono.

A total of 210 candidates are standing for the 49 seats. Eighteen of the candidates are women.

Who gets to vote?

All Samoans over 21 are allowed to vote. Samoans resident overseas may also vote, but must register within the country.

Samoa has a population of 182,000; there are a further 120,000 Samoans living in New Zealand.

79,118 Samoans had registered to vote by the 14 February deadline.

How does the electoral system work?

The Fono is elected on a first-past-the-post system.

Forty-seven of the 49 seats are reserved for ethnic Samoans, who make up more than 92% of the population. Only chiefs or "matai" - of whom there are more than 25,000 - may stand for these seats. The other two seats are for members of other communities.

The Fono chooses the prime minister, who is technically appointed by the head of state. The premier then names a cabinet of 12 ministers.

Who are the main parties and players?

Two parties dominate: the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which eventually held 34 seats in the outgoing Fono, and the Samoa Democratic United Party (SDUP).

The HRPP has governed since the mid-1980s and won 45% of the vote in the last election in 2001. Its leader is the outgoing prime minister, Tuila'epa Sailele, who is assured of a return to parliament as he is standing uncontested in his constituency.

The SDUP is headed by Le Mamea Ropati, who has been appointed to two HRPP cabinets.

Other parties and players

The Samoa Party (SP) was launched in September 2005 by Su'a Rimoni Ah Chong, who is pledging to "restore the primacy of parliament". Su'a was sacked as auditor-general in 1995 after producing a report on official corruption, though Prime Minister Tuila'epa has said he left the job of his own accord.

The Samoa Christian Party (SCP) is headed by Tuala Tiresa Malietoa, the country's first female party leader. Tuala has stressed that the SCP seeks to promote the interests of all, although its executive officers are all women. Around 5% of matai are women.

The Samoa Progressive Party (SPP) is led by another former minister, Toalepaialii Toeolesulusulu Si'ueva.

What issues are at stake?

Local loyalties and individual reputations count for at least as much as party policy in Samoa.

However, the government may have been damaged by its handling of a protracted strike by public hospital doctors in late 2005, which led to most leaving public service.

The HRPP is reported to be campaigning on its record of stabilising the economy and providing services, particularly in rural areas.

The SDUP is focusing on alleged government corruption and the high cost of living. The SP is also campaigning for probity in public office.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

Country profile: Samoa
03 Jan 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Samoa
08 Jul 05 |  Country profiles

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