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Samoa’s parliament passed new electoral amendments over the weekend that will give citizens the right to register to vote from overseas, a move that opposition lawmakers warn could see the Pacific island nation being governed by “outsiders,” Radio New Zealand reported.

The new Electoral Amendment Bill 2024 will permit members of Samoa’s diaspora to vote in general elections.

The country’s Electoral Commissioner Tuiafelolo John Stanley said individuals registered to vote had to be citizens who have resided in Samoa, as well as provide documentation including birth certificates and that they are Samoan citizens.

Overseas voters must also finalize their registration by completing a biometric test in Samoa, he added.

The amendments were pushed by the ruling Faatuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party.

But opposition politicians raised concern that the island nation’s general elections will be influenced by its very large diaspora living in Australia, New Zealand and other regions of Oceania, which outnumber the estimated 207,000 people on Samoa.

The editorial board in the local paper Samoa Observer explained that there was confusion and ambiguity regarding the registration process, including questions about whether the law applies only to Samoans with a Samoan passport, or includes those born overseas with Samoan heritage.

However, Tuiafelo and other officials dismissed those concerns, saying that the bill’s goal is to make it convenient for Samoan citizens living abroad.

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