Samoa not ready to change voting age, says former MP

 

Some of the participants at the Conference on the Role of Elections in Development

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA, SAMOA – MONDAY 29 MAY 2017: Proprietor of the Samoan Cultural Center and former Member of Parliament Maulolo Tavita Amosa is amongst many people who oppose the view that the voting age should be dropped from 21 to 18 years old.

Surprisingly, only two out of 10 students interviewed by Talamua support the suggestion to drop the voting age, while the rest said to go with what the law says.

“Samoa is not ready for that, especially its cultural impact,” argued Maulolo who briefly made it in parliament but lost his seat following an election petition.

“Maybe in the next ten years or so, but not now,” he said.

He also emphasized that Samoa does not have to follow the international conventions just because we signed those conventions.

He said dropping the voting age will account for a very substantial amount of votes and his concern is that if dropping the voting age is a solution to the numbers of youths not voting, then it will only add more to the problem.

Women Village Representatives, Sui O Nu’u Falenaoti June and Punoalii Fetulima Kopelani support Maualolo’s view.

Falenaoti said culture should be well enforced within villages and districts, and that development funds should be directed at villages where youth development can be monitored.

“Youth need to be well educated especially on their responsibilities,” she said.

“If young people are well versed about politics and its impact, then I will say yes to 18, but, it is too early,” said Maulolo.

The issue of dropping the voting age to 18 was raised by a Youth Representative during last weeks’ conference on the role of elections in the country’s development and raised the concern over the low numbers of young people registering and actually voting in last year’s general elections.

Lawyer Afoa Fetulia’i Va’asiliega pointed out anomalies in the country’s laws that include legal age to marry at 16 for a female and 18 for a male and that young couples can have 3 children but cannot vote as they would still be under 21 under the current electoral law.

“I have nothing against other laws referred to by the youth representatives, regarding youth age, but the  issue of voting for leaders, Samoa is not ready, and the age should remain at 21,” Maulolo emphasized.

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