Samoa’s electoral laws have been amended giving citizens the right to register to vote from overseas, despite the opposition raising concerns about the country being governed by “outsiders”.

The amendments to Samoa’s Electoral Amendment Bill 2024 was passed last Friday by Samoa’s Parliament in Apia.

There had been concerns the amendments would result in Samoa’s diaspora influencing general elections, as the Samoan diaspora outnumbers the local population.

MP for Sagaga No.2, Maulolo Tavita Amosa, said 107,000 of the 182,000 Samoans living in New Zealand were eligible to vote in Samoa.

“What will become of our parliament and who will they listen to,” Maulolo was quoted by the Samoa Observer newspaper.

However, Samoa’s Electoral Commissioner Tuiafelolo John Stanley has dismissed concerns.

He told RNZ Pacific that those eligible to vote were required to be citizens who have resided in Samoa.

“The qualifications are to be a Samoan citizen, you are 21 years and over, and thirdly you have resided in Samoa.

“So if you have not resided in Samoa, you do not register for the next general election,” Tuiafelolo said.

“Any Samoan citizen who lives overseas is able to apply for registration online, but there are requirements. There are documentation and evidence that you have to provide in order to confirm your birth and that you are a Samoan citizen.”

Tuiafelolo said in addition to the conditions, overseas voters had to complete their registration by completing a biometric test in Samoa.
His office had pushed for the change when it was tabled by the ruling Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party.

He said the goal of the law is to make it convenient for Samoan citizens living overseas.

“Most of these concerns expressed shows they [opposition] have not read the law,” Tuiafelolo said.

“The whole idea is to consider avenues for all eligible Samoans to be able to vote including those who live overseas.

“The process is completed once you arrive here in Samoa to do your biometrics.”

Samoa’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries La’auli Leuatea Schmidt said the country would not be ruled by outsiders, should a change to the electoral act go through.