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Samoa’s new PM ‘sworn in’ at makeshift ceremony

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Fiame Naomi Mata’afa (seated C-in white) sits with members of parliament and the judiciary as she is sworn in as Samoa’s first woman prime minister in Apia on May 24, 2021, at an extraordinary makeshift tent ceremony after the island nation’s long-ruling government refused to cede power and locked the doors of parliament. (Photo by Malietau Malietoa / AFP)

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa was sworn in as Samoa’s first woman prime minister at an extraordinary makeshift tent ceremony Monday after the island nation’s long-ruling government refused to cede power and locked the doors of parliament.

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The ad-hoc ceremony — which is likely to face a court challenge — caps weeks of legal and political wrangling following fiercely contested elections on April 9.

Prime minister of 22 years Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi lost the vote but has so far refused to step down, prompting allegations he is carrying out a constitutional coup.

Neighbouring New Zealand and Australia have urged calm and adherence to the rule of law.

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Barred from entering the parliamentary chamber, Mata’afa and her parliamentary delegation sat for hours in a large marquee in the gardens of parliament, as supporters sang hymns and police looked on.

They were sworn in one-by-one to raucous cheers, in a ceremony that had all the trappings of officialdom despite the venue, and which was quickly rejected by rivals.

Samoa gained independence in 1962 after nearly 50 years as a New Zealand protectorate and Malielegaoi’s Human Rights Protection Party has been in power since 1982, apart from a brief coalition period in 1986-87.

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Fiame Naomi Mata'afaSamoa
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