(BBC) – Samoa is set to get its first female prime minister, marking the end of unprecedented political drama in the small Pacific island nation of 200,000 people.
On Monday, the Supreme Court finally validated Fiame Naomi Mata’afa’s shock April election win, ending weeks of political stalemate and calling off a re-run.
She unseated the world’s second-longest serving prime minister – Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi – who has been ruling the country since 1998.
Observers have described the shakeup as Samoa’s democracy coming of age.
Cracks in a decades-old system
Democratic elections are nothing new in Samoa and yet they’re rarely anything that would hit global headlines.
There has basically only been one party that’s ever been relevant – the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP), which has won elections there for the past four decades.
Almost equally constant has been the man at the helm: Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi – the second longest-serving prime minister in the world.
But that system began to crack last year – the first signs of which showed when several HRPP members defected to start their own opposition party, Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST).
Enter Fiame Naomi Mata’af, who quickly became a frontrunner for FAST after joining them in January.
Her political pedigree is unquestionable.
Politically active since the mid 1980s, the 64-year old had already been Polynesia’s first female deputy prime minister and will be only the second woman in the region to head a government.
‘A milestone for Samoa’
“Fiame is a strong figure, someone people have always looked up to,” Sapeer Mayron, of the Samoan Observer, told the BBC.
“She’s seen as very principled, and as bringing a dignity to politics that many people feel has been lost.”
Kerryn Baker, Pacific affairs expert at the Australian National University, says that Fiame’s appointment is “an important milestone for Samoa”.
“She was already very much a role model for women in Samoa, but now she’s broken through yet another glass ceiling.”