O le Ao o le Malo
|O le Ao o le Malo of the
Independent State of
Coat of Arms of
the Independent State
|Term length||Five years, no term limit|
|Inaugural holder||Meaʻole and Tanumafili II|
|Formation||1 January 1962|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The position is described in Part III of the 1960 Samoan constitution. At the time the constitution was adopted, it was anticipated that future heads of state would be chosen from among the four Tama a 'Aiga "royal" paramount chiefs. However, this is not required by the constitution, so, for this reason, Samoa can be considered a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy (such as the United Kingdom). The government Press Secretariat describes O le Ao o le Malo as a "ceremonial president". However, as all of the heads of state, elected by the Fono, the country's parliament (which is itself almost entirely composed of customary chiefs), since independence have been one of the four chiefs, so it is ambiguous as to whether the country constitutes a parliamentary republic or a democratic elective monarchy.
The current O le Ao o le Malo is Va'aletoa Sualauvi II, who was elected to a five-year term which started on 21 July 2017.
When Samoa became independent on January 1, 1962, two of the four paramount chiefs (Tama a 'Aiga) – Tanumafili II and Meaʻole – were jointly named to the office for life by the 1960 Constitution. Each represented, respectively, the Malietoa and Tupua Tamasese, the "two of the four main family lineages" of Samoa. They were jointly known as O Ao o le Malo and individually as O le Ao o le Malo. Mea'ole died a year later in 1963, leaving Tanumafili as the sole holder of the office until his death in 2007, aged 94. His replacement, Tufuga Efi, had served two prior terms as Prime Minister of Samoa and is the elder son of Meaʻole. He was elected by the Samoan Legislative Assembly for a five-year term beginning on 20 June 2007 and again in July 2012 for a further five-year term. The 4th and current head of state is Tui A'ana Tuimaleali'ifano Va'aleto'a Eti Sualauvi II, the great grandson of Mau Movement leader Tuimaleali'ifano Fa'aoloi'i and nephew of the original member of the Council of Deputies Tuimaleali'ifano Suatipatipa II, succeeded Tufuga Efi, after being newly elected by the Legislative Assembly for a five year term in 30 June 2017 when Tufuga Efi's term was nearing its end.
Article 18 of the Samoan constitution sets the qualifications for the position of O le Ao o le Malo. He must:
- be qualified for election as a member of parliament;
- possess such qualifications as the Fono may determine by resolution;
- not have been previously been removed from the office on the grounds of misbehavior or infirmity.
Term of office
The O le Ao o le Malo is elected by the Fono for five years and can be re-elected. The exceptions to this were Tanumafili and Meaʻole, who were exempted from the five-year term laid down by Article 19. The constitution does not set forth a limit on the number of terms an O le Ao o le Malo can serve. There was an understanding that the office is to alternate between the four tama aiga families, of which the most recently elected O le Ao o le Malo belongs to the Tuimaleali'ifano clan, one of the four paramount chiefs alongside the Mata'afa (a vacant chieftaincy since 2014).
Removal from office can occur in four ways:
- removal by the Fono on the grounds of misbehavior or mental or physical infirmity;
- approval by two-thirds of the Fono of a resolution for removal that is proposed and supported by at least a fourth of its members following at least fourteen days between the notice of motion and debate on the motion;
Duties and powers
The position is that of a ceremonial head of state, while actual power is held by the Prime Minister, whom the O le Ao o le Malo appoints on the recommendation of the Fono. While the O le Ao o le Malo "does not play an active role in government", he can dissolve the Fono and no act of parliament will become law without his approval. The O le Ao o le Malo may also grant pardons.
To date, there have been three elections for the office of O le Ao o le Malo. The first was held on 16 June 2007, in which Tufuga Efi was elected unopposed by the 49-member strong parliament. The second was held on 19 July 2012, in which Efi was nominated by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and seconded by Palusalue Fa’apo II, the leader of the opposition. The third was held on 30 June 2017, in which Va'aletoa Sualauvi II was elected over Efi by a majority vote of 23 to 15.
List of O le Ao o le Malo's
|1 January 1962
5 April 1963
|Elected for Life. Served jointly with Tanumafili II. Died in office.|
|1 January 1962
11 May 2007
|Elected for Life. Served jointly with Meaʻole to 5 April 1963. Died in office.|
|11 May 2007
20 June 2007
|Acting (members of the Council of Deputies).|
|Va'aletoa Sualauvi II
|20 June 2007
21 July 2017
|Son of Meaʻole. Elected in 2007, re-elected in 2012.|
|3||Va'aletoa Sualauvi II
|21 July 2017
|Elected in 2017.|
- Lists of incumbents
- Samoalive dictionary
- Websters Online Dictionary
- "Constitution of the Independent State of Western Samoa 1960". University of the South Pacific. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
- Hassall, Graham & Saunders, Cheryl (2002). Asia-Pacific Constitutional Systems. Cambridge University Press. p. 41. ISBN 0-521-59129-5.
- New Zealand Herald (28 June 2007). "Name says it all for Samoa's new leader". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 28 December 2007.
- "Samoan king dies at the age of 94". The Sydney Morning Herald. 13 May 2007. Retrieved 13 May 2007.
- Jackson, Cherelle (13 May 2007). "Samoa's Head of State Malietoa dies aged 95". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 November 2011.
- New Zealand Herald (16 June 2007). "New head of state for Samoa". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
- Kogan Page; World of information (2003). Asia and Pacific Review 2003/04, 21st edition. Essex, England: Walden Publishing Ltd. p. 41. ISBN 0-7494-4063-5.
- eDiplomat.com. "Samoa". Retrieved 28 December 2007.
- Samoa’s parliament reappoints Tui Atua as head of state Radio New Zealand International, 19 July 2012.
- Samoa Planet