Samoan prime minister refuses to cede power

The Pacific island nation of Samoa is in political turmoil after its longtime leader claimed to remain in charge despite losing a parliamentary election.

Samoa was set to get a new prime minister for the first time in about 23 years after the opposition FAST party took 26 of the 51 parliament seats last month.

Parliament was due to convene on Monday to form a new government. But local media report the incumbent leader, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, announced he remains in power, and the parliament building was locked.

FAST party leader Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, the country's first female prime minister-elect, took the oath of office outside the parliament building.

Samoa's neighboring countries are expressing concern over the issue.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the election outcome should be upheld.

Tuilaepa has been prime minister for five terms since 1998. He has valued relations with China, which has been stepping up its influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fiame, on the other hand, has pledged to scrap a China-backed port development project, citing Samoa's deep debt.