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Samoa's Chief Justice Satiu Simativa Perese arrives at parliament in Apia on May 24, as he and Samoa's Prime Minister-elect Fiame Naomi Mata'afa were locked out of the Pacific nation's parliament as Mata'afa's political rival refused to accept electoral defeat prompting claims of a coup. Photo: Keni Lesa/Getty Images

Samoa will be led by a female prime minister for the first time in the country's history after a monthslong court battle ended with an appeals court ruling officially handing the office to Fiame Naomi Mata'afa on Friday.

The big picture: The Samoan court of appeals ruled that Mata'afa's Faatuatua ile Aua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) party was the winner of the Pacific island nation's early April election that resulted in a tie.

  • At the time, the two competing parties won 25 seats each in the 51-seat legislature, with the remaining seat held by an independent member.
  • FAST's Mata'afa and the Human Rights Protection Party's Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who had served as prime minister for more than 22 years, both claimed to be country's rightful leader, per NPR.

What happened: After the election, the Samoan electoral commission declared that an additional candidate from the HRPP, Ali'imalemanu Alofa Tuuau, won a seat in the legislature due to the requirement that a minimum of 10% of seats in parliament be held by women.

  • The independent then backed FAST, deadlocking the legislature at 26-26.
  • Samoa's supreme court ruled in May that the electoral commission's decision to add the extra seat was invalid, giving FAST the 26-25 majority.

What they're saying: The court said in its Friday ruling that the FAST party was “entitled to take power on the 24th May,” when it held a swearing-in ceremony, adding “from this point, the court does not recognise [Tuilaepa’s caretaker government] as the government of the Independent State of Samoa, because of the fact that there is a new government,” the Guardian writes.

Why it matters: Friday's decision brings an official end to Malielegaoi's reign. At the time of the election, he was the world’s second-longest serving prime minister, per the Guardian.

  • "No legal avenues remain for Malielegaoi to stay in office ... But whether the crisis is truly over will depend on his actions in the coming days," NPR notes, citing observers.

Background: Mata'afa previously served as the country’s deputy prime minister. Last year, she defected from the HRPP, which had ruled Samoa for 39 years, and joined the FAST party, founded in June 2020, per the Guardian.

Go deeper

Appeals court denies DOJ's request to suspend Texas abortion ban

People protesting Texas' abortion ban outside of the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Oct. 2. Photo: Montinique Monroe/Getty Images

A three-judge panel for the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday denied the Department of Justice's emergency request to suspend Texas' abortion ban, which bars the procedure after a fetal heartbeat is detected, or roughly six weeks — before many people know they are pregnant.

Why it matters: The ruling allows the ban to continue to be enforced as the courts consider the law's constitutionality. It's one of the most restrictive bans to be enforced since the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

4 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.