Cooks Democrats scramble to confer
Manoeuvrings across party lines are reportedly afoot as lobbying to form a coalition government intensifies among the Cook Islands' main political parties.
Members of the Democratic Party executive in the Cook Islands say they are likely to hold an urgent party conference to clarify their leadership and political partner.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Henry Puna said he wouldn't rule out a coalition between the two major parties which have traditionally opposed each other.
But the Democrats leader, Wilkie Rasmussen, called this idea 'wishful thinking' citing a solid relationship with Teina Bishop's One Cook Islands Movement, however now it seems his own role is in jeopardy.
Jenny Meyer reports.
The ruling Cook Islands Party has 11 seats, and 12 are held by a coalition between the Democrats with ten seats and the One Cook Islands Movement with two. A Cook Islands political commentator is predicting some members of the Democratic Party will defect to create a coalition government with the Cook Islands Party. George Pitt says a number of Democratic Party constituency executives are calling for a conference to be held before the Vaipae Tautu by-election in Aitutaki on 17th February which will confirm which party will govern in the 24 seat parliament.
GEORGE PITT: There is a growing momentum of dissatisfied Democratic Party members, Democratic Party officials, and even Members of Parliament
George Pitt says Wilkie Rasmussen's leadership of the Democratic Party needs to be put to the test. The Prime Minister Henry Puna recently warned his people that the Bishop-Rasmussen pact is in for stormy weather. Henry Puna says he's had some meetings with leading figures in the Democratic Party but wants to keep the identity of those involved confidential.
HENRY PUNA: Yes there have been some discussions. It's a responsibility that us leaders should be mindful of at all times, to have a look at the political situation and come up with options that would be workable in the best interests of the country, having regard to the existing situation.
The Vice President of the Democratic Party, William Pera, says phone calls and rumours have been getting stronger in the past 24 hours pushing for an urgent party conference after an MP was approached by the Cook Islands Party. He says although he is the current leader, Wilkie Rasmussen no longer holds a seat and is likely to be ousted.
WILLIAM PERA: They need the conference so we will know who is going to lead us as a leader and which way we're going. Whether we're going coalition with the Cook Island Party or with Teina Bishop and the other one.
However Mr Rasmussen says the two major parties are old rivals and have fundamental political differences. He says he is happy to relinquish his leadership once the Democrats win the Aitutaki by-election.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: My future is that once the by-election is done and once the Democratic Party government is installed, then I have made it quite clear to the Democratic Party that I will put the position on the table for others to contest. And I'll sit back and get on with my private life.
A date for the urgent Democrat Party Conference has not yet been set.
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