Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Village chiefs continued to deliver harsh sentences in 2009, ruling in March to banish a family from the village of Vaimoso. The September tsunami that struck Samoa and neighboring islands cost the country $58 million in damages. In June, the parliamentary speaker failed in his attempt to remove nine members of parliament for allegedly violating the Electoral Act.
The switch to driving on the right side of the road in Septemberstirred a great deal of public debate in 2009, as citizens questioned the purpose of the change and the costs of buying new road signs and remodeling vehicles to comply with safety regulations.
Samoa is an electoral democracy. The 2006 legislative elections were deemed free and fair. Executive authority is vested in the head of state, who is elected for five-year terms by the Legislative Assembly. The head of state appoints the prime minister, who leads the government and names his own cabinet. All laws passed by the 49-member, unicameral Legislative Assembly must receive approval from the head of state to take effect. Although candidates are free to propose themselves for electoral office, the approval of the matai is essential. Two legislative seats are reserved for at-large voters, mostly citizens of mixed or non-Samoan heritage who have no ties to the 47 village-based constituencies. All lawmakers serve five-year terms. The main political parties are the HRPP and the SDUP.