APIA (AFP) - Samoa called a fresh election Tuesday (May 4) after the last vote failed to produce a clear victor, prompting anger from the opposition which called the move "trickery" and "unlawful".
The Pacific island nation has been in political limbo since an April 9 election ended with the ruling Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP) and fledgling opposition Fast party on 26 seats each in the 52-seat Parliament.
On Tuesday, the head of state in the nation of 220,000, Mr Tuimalealiifano Vaaletoa Sualauvi, announced that another election would be held on May 21.
He said court challenges to election results could drag on until the end of 2021, impeding the government's ability to do its job properly.
"The uncertainty regarding the results of the elections had affected every fabric of our society," he said in a nationally televised address after meeting both party leaders.
Fast leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, who hopes to become Samoa's first female leader, accused caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of orchestrating the election move.
"These proposed actions are wrong, these proposed actions are unlawful, these proposed actions threaten and undermine the rule of law," she said.
"The law sets out the process after an election, and we must follow this process, without diversion or trickery."
Ms Mata'afa said calling an election pre-empted the outcome of an opposition legal challenge due to begin this week.
The HRPP has been in power since 1982, apart from a brief coalition period between 1986 and 1987, and Mr Malielegaoi has held the top job for 22 years, making him one of the world's longest-serving democratically elected leaders.
The initial count after the April 9 election, when it was considered there were only 51 seats, gave the two main parties 25 each, with one independent.
Independent Tuala Iosefo Ponifasio then joined Fast, while the caretaker HRPP administration gained an additional MP under a constitutional requirement setting a minimum quota of women in Parliament.
An opposition challenge to the quota was set to begin in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, which would have potentially extended the political deadlock.