COI calls to establish an Electoral Services Commission


The Electoral Commission of Inquiry recommends establishing an Electoral Services Commission following the 2021 General Elections, which questioned the independent and singular authority afforded to the Electoral Commissioner under the Electoral Act 2019. 

The report says the Office of the Electoral Commission is administered by the Electoral Commissioner with five Assistant ACEOs under the Electoral Commission Act 2019. The Electoral Commissioner is independent and singular authority to make any decision on any issue related to the general elections assisted by the Assistant Electoral Officers. 

The total personnel allocated is 49; however, only 45 positions are filled. According to section 5 of the Electoral Commission Act 2019, the premise that this body is independent is misleading as the HoS appoints the Commissioner on Cabinet advice.

“Similarly, Cabinet not only appoints the Assistant Electoral Officers but seeks the concurrence of the Public Service Commission and the Ministry of Finance for additional staff.”

Section 4.1.6” of the Report noted many complaints against the Electoral Commissioner’s handling of previous elections, particularly the decision-making process.

“Some of these decisions included the 10% minimum quota of women MPs as well as the illegal edict from the HoS to hold new elections. “The repercussions that followed meant a substantial increase in financial expenses of $2.7million for the 2021 General Elections. 

“The difficulties and inconvenience experienced by travelling voters due to the removal of special booths were also costly in terms of time, money and well-being.” 

According to the report, heading the OEC is not an easy responsibility as it is buffeted by politics, especially when elections are imminent. Some decisions and their execution just prior to the last elections and the vote-counting afterward, highlighted the complexities for one person to cope with multiple challenges and demands of the voters, candidates, political parties, and elected MPs. Some of the decisions and execution of responsibilities were criticized and questioned the Commissione’s independence. 

Many views indicated that the Commissioner of OEC was not independent in his decision-making because of political interference.

Therefore the CoI believes that a revised framework is necessary: 

  1. An Electoral Services Commission to be established, to shift the responsibility from one (1) individual adjudicating delicate and complex issues, and avoid being partial to the Government of the day.
  2. The ESC shall consist of three (3) members – all to be respected members of the community; holding matai titles, with extensive senior experience in Government operation and community development; a Samoan citizen, over 50 years old, with vision, integrity, and
  3. The ESC shall have a Chairperson and two (2) Assistant Commissioners with expected skills in Law, Politics, Economics, Human Resources, or the Humanities.
  4. Responsibilities of the ESC would include: Pre-Election Period (48 months) Oversee election preparation, legislative reviews, public awareness, election promotion