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RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (April 28, 1999 - Radio Australia/PACNEWS)---The Cook Islands Chief Justice has declared the country's new Electoral Act, which forbade political campaigning except for five weeks prior to a national election, unconstitutional.

Radio Australia reports that the Chief Justice said he was unable to accept the Government's argument that the law was for the benefit of the public.

In his view, the Chief Justice said the new electoral act was so restrictive and so broad, it was clearly unconstitutional.

He said it would have achieved a restriction on almost any form of overt political activity in the Cook Islands for all time between elections.

Even the formation of new political parties would not have been allowed, except just before an election.

The judgement is a victory for the opposition Democratic Alliance Party that challenged the law. The party said it would start campaigning immediately for the elections, which are seven weeks away.

(See Media Release from the Government of the Cook Islands for additional information. Pacific Islands Report, Thursday, April 29, 1999, Item 19.)

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