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Samoa's 28-year-old government wins re-election

Associated Press - March 5, 2011

Keni Lesi, Apia, Samoa The party that has ruled Samoa for 28 years has retained power in elections, according to preliminary results, despite criticism over the government's handling of a deadly tsunami that struck the South Pacific island nation in 2009.

The Human Rights Protection Party of Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi went to Friday's polls with 30 seats and the support of five independent lawmakers in the 49-seat parliament.

HRPP lost one seat but has the support of an additional two independents, giving Tuilaepa control over 36 seats, a single seat increase, according to preliminary results released Saturday by Samoan Electoral Commissioner Tanuvasa Meleisea Isitolo Lemisio.

The main opposition Tautua Samoa Party increased its representation by two seats, to 13. It had based its election campaign on accusations that the government mismanaged aid following the 2009 tsunami, which killed 183 people, and did not do enough to help victims of the disaster.

It was the first election test for the opposition party, which was formed by 11 independent lawmakers in 2008.

The Electoral Commission said 90 percent of the 76,000 registered voters in the island nation of 192,000 people voted, some lining up for hours before polling stations opened. The final count may not be completed for two weeks.

Tuilaepa, 60, won his seat unopposed and will continue as prime minister. He would become Samoa's longest-serving premier, at 18 years, if he holds the job for the entire five-year term.

Tuilaepa's leadership team will be revamped, with three of his Cabinet ministers losing their seats in the election.

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