Cook Islands Party election victory marred
The Cook Islands Party election victory marred by accusations of bribery and miscounts from the rival Democratic Party.
The Cook Islands Party election victory has been marred by accusations of bribery and miscounts from the rival Democratic Party.
An early count showed the Democratic Party had the lead but hundreds of votes by declaration turned the outcome in the favour of the Cook Islands Party which eventually won a majority with 13 seats.
The Democratic party vows to challenge the results but the Cook Islands Party says it won't be able to afford it.
Daniela Maoate-Cox reports.
Motorbikes, alcohol, and a washing machine are just some of the items the Democratic Party says were given away to sway voters. The Party wound up with just eight seats but says votes from non-residents also contributed to its defeat. Among the Democratic Party's casualties is its leader, Wilkie Rasmussen, who says a group of voters from Australia cost him a seat.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: They all are relatives of my opponent and they naturally voted for him. They came for a visit and they paid for their return tickets back to Australia so we are challenging their eligibility on the basis of their permanent place of residence. We think it's unfair for them to turn up on the spot and then change the fortunes of the locals.
Mr Rasmussen says they will also petition in electorates where they say voters were bribed with gifts.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: The Prime Minister made an announcement in a public meeting in Manihiki that if he wins he would buy for each person there a 15 Hostar outboard motor four stroke. In Atiu for example, allegations were of two motorbikes being given to two voters, a washing machine given to one voter. Of course we've done our homework, we've checked on the facts.
Wilkie Rasmussen says by-elections might be necessary if their petitions are upheld. But the caretaker Prime Minister and Cook Islands Party leader Henry Puna, says the Democrats are just upset they lost.
HENRY PUNA: I'm hearing these rumours that are flying around that they will file petitions here there and everywhere but let's wait and see what comes out of the woodwork. You know now we have the final results, and of course that shows something else totally different from what they were expecting so I can understand why they would be peeved off.
The Cook Islands Party MP for Takuvaine and Tutakimoa, Mark Brown, says he doubts the Democratic Party can afford to challenge the results.
MARK BROWN: A petition requires the petitioner to pay for the cost of transportation to get a judicial process to be held in the outer islands. Now a charter flight to the Northern Group islands costs over $20,000 (NZD) for one flight. These are going to be very very expensive exercises and the party has to be able to pay for them.
The Chief Electoral Officer, Taggy Tangimetua declined to be interviewed but in a statement she said the registrar of each electorate decides if a person is qualified to vote. She added claims that postal votes from New Zealand were accepted after the polls closed, were untrue. Ms Tangimetua said although she was not notified of those votes until two days after the polls closed, they were received in time by a returning officer in Auckland and she used her discretionary powers to accept them. Candidates must lodge their petitions with the High Court by July the 25th.
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