Country in the SW Pacific Ocean, in Polynesia, NE of Fiji.
Western Samoa is an independent state within the Commonwealth. The 1960 constitution, which into effect 1962, provides for a parliamentary system of government, with a constitutional head of state, a single-chamber legislative assembly, and a prime minister and cabinet drawn from and responsible to the assembly. The head of state is normally elected by the assembly for a five-year term, but the present holder of the office has been elected for life. The head of state appoints the prime minister and cabinet on the basis of assembly support.
The assembly (Fono) has 49 members, 47 from the Matai (elected clan leaders) and two non-Samoans. All are elected by universal suffrage. The Fono has a life of five years. All political parties are personality-based groupings.
The original inhabitants were Polynesians, and the first Europeans to reach the island group of Samoa, 1722, were Dutch. In the 19th century, Germany, the UK, and the US had conflicting interests in the islands and administered them jointly 1889–99, when they were divided into American Samoa and Western Samoa. Western Samoa was a German colony until World War I and from 1920 was administered by New Zealand, first as a League of Nations mandate and from 1946 as a United Nations trust territory.
Western Samoa was granted internal self-government gradually until it achieved full independence, within the Commonwealth, 1 Jan 1962. The office of head of state was held jointly by two traditional rulers, but on the death of one of them, the other, Malietoa Tanumafili II, became the sole head of state for life. The prime minister at the time of independence was Fiame Mata Afa Mulinu'u. He lost power 1970 but regained it 1973 until his death 1975. In 1976 the first prime minister who was not of royal blood was elected, Tupuola Taisi Efi.
In 1979 the opposition politicians came together to form the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) which won the 1982 election, Va'ai Kolone becoming prime minister. Later that year he was replaced by Tupuola Efi. Efi resigned a few months later when his budget was rejected and was replaced by the new HRPP leader, Tofilau Eti Alesana. The HRPP won a decisive victory Feb 1985, and Tofilau Eti Alesana continued as prime minister. At the end of the year he resigned and Va'ai Kolone returned to lead a government of independents and members of the Christian Democratic Party (CDP), recently formed by Tupuola Taisi Efi (now known as Tupua Tamasese Efi). The 1988 general election produced a hung parliament with Tofilau Eti Alesana emerging as premier.
Following the introduction of universal adult suffrage 1990, Tofilau Eti Alesana was returned for a further three-year term in the 1991 general election, and Va'ai Kolone resumed leadership of the opposition. Tofilau Eti Alesana made wholesale changes to his cabinet May 1991, bringing in Fiame Naomi as the first woman to serve in a Western Samoan cabinet. During 1993 two new parties were formed: the Samoa Democratic Party (SDP), led by Sir Togiloa Peter, and the Samoan National Development Party (SNDP), led by Tupua Tamasese Efi and Va'ai Kolone.