Cook Island voters worried about depopulation
Depopulation, climate change, and foreign aid are just some of the issues Cook Islanders will consider while casting their votes in next week's election.
A New Zealand academic says depopulation, and foreign aid are just some of the issues Cook Islanders will consider ahead of casting their votes in next week's election.
The Cook Islands parliament was dissolved in April this year and next year's expected poll date was brought forward six months to July the 9th.
The Pasifika director at New Zealand's Massey University, Dr Malakai Koloamatangi, spoke to Daniela Maoate-Cox about the main issues confronting Cook Islands voters.
KOLOAMATANGI: It's had perennial issues for example one of them is the depopulation issue that's going on and so the depopulation issue affects other sectors. For example the economy relies very heavily on tourism with nearly 68 percent of GDP. It also relies very heavily on foreign aid, the Cooks is self administering but in free association with New Zealand so admittedly New Zealand is responsible for some of those operational costs as it were. So the foreign transfer from New Zealand to the Cooks is quite substantial. The Cooks also rely on aid from other countries such as China.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: Are those issues what will be on the minds of the voters when they go to cast their vote on election day?
MK: The Cook Islands is a very small electorate and so everyone knows everyone else and in tems of that then, usually with those small microstates, politics becomes very personalised and it doesn't have to be the big issues, I think it can be the more local issues.
DM-C: Do the changes to parties and people switching around everywhere, does that have an effect on people when they'e going to vote? Is there any confusion around how people keep switching parties and creating new ones?
MK: There is confusion. Even though we're not talking about a large number of parties, we're only talking say six or seven parties and two of those parties, the Cook Islands Party and the Democratic Party are the two main parties. If new parties are being created then of course it will create confusion amongst people. But I think, in terms of the voting population, I think they're very well set in their preferences for the two main parties.
DM-C: So people mostly have their minds made up already?
MK: I think so and politics being at a personal level, usually that means there is some stability I think in the outcome of the elections and so we're not getting the perceived instability of the system where you have frequent elections and it was usual for election cycles to be shortened because of the instability and chopping between parties. So I get the sense that largely it's now stabilising.
DM-C: But this year's election was called earlier than it was meant to be held.
MK: That's right. Of course the main reason according to the Govenor General is for the incoming Government to get things ready for the 50th anniversary of Cook Island's self govern next year. Of course some people say it's because the Government has lost its majority in parliament. I'm not sure, I think there's probably a bit of truth in both what the official line is and what the critics are saying. I mean, whatever the reason is, there had to be elections quite soon so the Government is calling them sooner rather than later.
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