Political uncertainty continues in Cooks
Six months after the Cook Islands general election the result remains uncertain, with another by-election pending in Aitutaki next month and political parties still vying for voters' attention.
Six months after the Cook Islands general election, the result remains uncertain, with another by-election pending in Aitutaki next month and political parties still vying for voters' attention.
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.
While the by-election for the last seat in the 24-member house has the potential to produce a hung parliament or a majority for the current opposition, the Prime Minister is suggesting a more creative solution.
Jenny Meyer reports.
Prime Minister Henry Puna says he won't rule out a deal between the two major parties despite the myopic views of the Democratic Party Leader, Wilkie Rasmussen. Mr Puna says his bid to form a union with the Democrats, even if only for a limited time, is the only way to reform the current system.
HENRY PUNA: I've had some meetings with leading figures in the Democratic Party but on the understanding that those meetings never took place, you know, if nothing comes of it. So I want to respect that confidentiality.
But Mr Rasmussen says a coalition government between the two major parties is wishful thinking by the Prime Minister and the Democrats are well entrenched with the One Cook Islands Movement.
WILKIE RASMUSSEN: Now he finds himself in a losing situation. And that is he's only got 11 members, we've got 12 members with the possibility of one, making it 13, which will be then a clear majority to govern. He is now being mischievious and throwing these sort of suggestions to the public or to the media.
Wilkie Rasmussen says widespread reform of the political system is needed in the Cook Islands. There have been several court petition and counter petitions as well as a discounted by-election from Mitiaro since July's vote. But Prime Minister Puna says he has real concerns about the opposition's current campaign in the Aitutaki by-election where he's heard his opponents are supplying free alcohol to voters.
HENRY PUNA: We're getting reports of extensive illegal behaviour by the coalition campaign team. And it's something that I'm seriously looking at raising it with the Commissioner of Police because all law abiding citizens of this country I'm sure will be interested to ensure that the by-election is free and fair.
Despite the One Cook Islands Movement holding only two seats, leader Teina Bishop looms as a kingmaker and could become Prime Minister under a deal with the Democrats. However Mr Bishop is facing an investigation on allegations of bribery and misconduct during his time as Minister of Marine Resources. When asked for his reaction to a potential alliance between the two major parties that could possibly leave him out, he said he would rather not comment.
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