Ruling Cook Islands Party under threat after court decision
The results of July's election in the Cook Islands are unclear after a result was overturned by the courts.
The results of July's election in the Cook Islands are now unclear after the court decision against the candidate for the ruling Cook Islands Party.
The High Court has upheld an electoral petition by the Democratic Party, whose candidate Tetangi Matapo has now been declared the winner in the Tamarua electorate by 3 votes.
The leader of the Democratic Party, Wilkie Rasmussen, says that means the ruling Cook Islands Party has lost its one seat majority, and an upcoming by-election in Mitiaro could see the balance swing the other way.
Mr Rasmussen spoke to Jamie Tahana.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: This is very, very significant in terms of our effort to make some inroads into what we believe had been an election that was marred by lots of irregularities with the running of it and of course with the whole result as we see it, particularly in the outer islands. So this decision is important because it takes the government down by one seat, therefore they don't have a majority and then we are in a better position now to win the by-election already announced in one of those outer island constituencies.
JAMIE TAHANA: This is just one electorate though. The petitions have been declined in four others but this is all you need really.
WR: Yes, yes. Well this decision has always been the one that we have really been focussed on because it's the first matter that we raised with the courts because of the way that the officials had managed the election in that particular constituency. However the decision had been made and our candidate won by three votes so it changes the whole landscape of the Cook Islands political goings-on. At the moment we're more in a position where we're able to perhaps negotiate, work out a way through to perhaps, you know, govern come the next two months or so.
JT: Yeah, what does happen in the meantime though. I mean technically Cook Islands Party is still government. What is the situation now with parliament?
WR: Well yes technically the Cook Islands Party does not have a majority but it has a quorum that it can still go to parliament and sit through. It is a caretaker government but I think as a caretaker government it will have difficulty in passing some of the legislation that are needed to be passed and all of that.
JT: It all rests on the Mitiaro by-election now, do we know when that is?
WR: That will be held in November. It's always been a Democratic Party seat. We're confident that we will hold that seat this time around. Then we get up to a situation where we could have a hung parliament. 12 for the government, 10 for the Democratic Party and two from One Cook Islands who at the moment is committed to work with the Democratic Party. So we will wait and see how that all pans out but it might change if, for example, we win one or two of the appeals.
JT: Say the Democratic Party win that election as you feel is likely and a hung parliament, what does that mean? Do we go back to another general election to decide?
WR: Well that could probably be the situation. It might do that. I think but because the parliament hasn't been formed yet, it hasn't sat yet, there's no government as such and so there's no parliament there's no Prime Minister to advise the Queen's Representative, for example, to resolve parliament and call a general election. However we looked at the constitution, we looked at the laws relevant to calling a new general election. It appears that the Queen's Representative of the Cook Islands may have discretion to basically declare that there's no confidence in any of the two parties or in any member of the two parties to lead a government therefore it will go back to the polls. That will remain to be seen I think in the next two months or so.
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