Campaigning Enters Final Week Before Cook Islands Election

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Candidates aware of prohibitions on treating, bribery

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, July 1, 2014) – Just over one week of campaigning remains for political hopefuls vying for a chance to represent their constituencies in Parliament.

While no specific rule is set out in the Electoral Act, Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua said all campaign activities should end on the evening before voting day on July 9.

"In the past, we’ve always said campaigning ends at 6pm the night before an election," she said. "Everything ceases, and it will be the last time party leaders have a chance to address the nation," she said.

Tangimetua said the unwritten policy will be in place this time around.

On the minds of those running will be rules relating to bribery and treating, particularly after two petitions went through the courts after two by-elections held in Murienua over the past 12 months.

Grounds for bribery and treating – both prevalent themes during both Murienua campaigns as in previous elections – are laid out in the Electoral Act.

According to the Act, any person that directly or indirectly gives or offers to any elector money or valuable consideration, such as a job, in order to induce the elector to vote or refrain from voting is considered to have committed bribery.

Candidates or their agents offering or paying for things as food, drink, and entertainment for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person or any other person to vote or refrain from voting can be viewed as treating.

In 2010, a total of four petitions were filed in the High Court – a sharp decline from previous years, particularly in 2004 when 12 electoral petitions were filed. Nine were eventually thrown out for failure to specify grounds and only two of the remaining three of those petitions were successful.

A total 10,394 registered electors are on the main roll with 1,068 electors between the ages of 20 and 24 – representing the largest voting bloc in the country - follow by voters in the 45-49 age range (1,066).

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