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Samoa's longtime leader faces stiff competition as nation heads to the polls today

Samoan citizens head to the polls today, ready to decide the country's fate in one of its tightest races yet. 

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Auckland University’s Damon Salesa says it’s the first time Samoa’s had a viable challenger to the country’s leader. Source: Breakfast

Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has been in power since 1998, becoming the second-longest serving Prime Minister in the world. 

Now his 23-year reign is under threat, challenged by Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, the daughter of the country's first Prime Minister Fiame Mata'afa Faumuina Mulinu'u. 

Auckland University's Damon Salesa hailed today as a "significant day" for the country's politics. 

"It's the first Samoan election which is really a live election in my lifetime, so in my sort of adult lifetime most Samoans have only ever known one prime minister," he told Breakfast. 

"I mean he's a powerful figure. Probably the defining figure in Samoan history since independence and for the first time we've got a viable challenger." 

Watch John Campbell's full interview with the Samoan politics expert in the video above.