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||Malietoa Tanumafili II and Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole|
|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.
When Samoa became independent on January 1, 1962, the two highest of the four paramount chiefs (Tama a Aiga) – Malietoa Tanumafili and Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole – were jointly named to the office for life by the 1960 Constitution. Each represented, respectively, the Malietoa and Tupua, the "two main family lineages" of Samoa. They were jointly known as O Ao o le Malo and individually as O le Ao o le Malo. Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole died a year later in 1963, leaving Malietoa Tanumafili as the sole holder of the office until his death in 2007, aged 94. His replacement, Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Tupuola Tufuga Efi, had served two prior terms as Prime Minister of Samoa and is the elder son of Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole. He was elected by the Samoan Legislative Assembly (the Fono) as the third O le Ao o le Malo for a five-year term beginning on 20 June 2007 and again in July 2012 for a further five-year term.
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 Malietoa Tanumafili and Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole, 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 is an understanding that the office is to alternate between the Malietoa and Tupua families.
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 president, 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 two 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 Tufuga Efi was nominated by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi and seconded by Palusalue Fa’apo II, the leader of the opposition. Tufuga Efi was again elected unopposed.
List of officeholders
|Took Office||Left Office|
|1||Malietoa Tanumafili II
|1 January 1962||11 May 2007||Elected for Life. Served jointly with Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Mea'ole to 5 April 1963. Died in office.|
|Tupua Tamasese Meaʻole
|5 April 1963||Elected for Life. Served jointly with Malietoa Tanumafili II. Died in office.|
|—||Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi
|11 May 2007||20 June 2007||Acting (members of the Council of Deputies).|
|Va'aletoa Sualauvi II
|2||Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi
|20 June 2007||Incumbent||Son of Tupua Tamasese Meaʻole. Elected in 2007, re-elected in 2012.|
- 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.
- New Zealand Herald (16 June 2007). "New head of state for Samoa". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 June 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.
- 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.