12 Nov 2002

Cook Islands plans to have election one year early

11:38 am on 12 November 2002

The Cook Islands prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, has confirmed that an early election will be held next year at a date yet to be set.

The election is not due until 2004 but Dr Woonton says he believes the merger of the two main parties, the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Alliance Party, makes it possible to change the constitution for an early election.

Last week, Dr Woonton sacked the justice minister, Norman George, to form the fifth coalition in three years which now includes the opposition leader, Dr Terepaii Maoate.

Dr Woonton says this will open the way for political reforms.

"There's a public outcry for political reforms to be put in place to set the country on a more positive course in the future, people are calling for fresh elections, certainly we have agreed to an early election next year, first we have to put in the changes and hope there is a political will to carry out those changes."