Election Appeal Could Flip Result In Cook Islands Race

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Tamarua seat won 28-27, with 2 voters being contested

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, August 5, 2014) – A court appeal on the eligibility of two electors in Tamarua will be decided by the end of the month, potentially flipping the final result.

Tokorua Pareina of the Cook Islands Party was declared the winner of the seat of Tamarua in Mangaia over Tetangi Matapo of the Democratic Party by a vote count of 28-27, but an appeal was lodged in the High Court by the Democratic Party regarding the eligibility of two voters prior to the election.

During a court hearing on Friday, Chief Justice Tom Weston said fellow judge Sir Hugh Williams decided – prior to electors going to the polls on July 9 - to permit the two voters to submit votes by declaration.

The two participated in the election, but the constituency’s registrar later disallowed their votes.

Lawyer Tina Browne, who’s working on behalf of the Demos for the majority of the Party’s petitions, said the warrant issued by the Chief Electoral Office declaring Pareina winner was "faulty", as the final count could not have been "final" without a decision on the appeal.

Countering her argument was Tony Manarangi, counsel for Pareina, who said the appeal was "spent", as Justice Williams put the two voters on the roll, and a final decision was made by the Chief Electoral Office as to their eligibility.

"The Court has no jurisdiction on an appeal of this nature," he said.

The Chief Justice requested Browne, Manarangi, and Crown Counsel Catherine Evans – who's acting on behalf of the Chief Electoral Officer – to provide submissions on the matter, which will be dealt with during a conference call with Williams later this month.

The judge has been asked to issue a decision before September 1 – the scheduled start date for court hearings on petitions.

Should the appeal be unsuccessful, Browne has asked the court to hear a petition contesting Tamarua’s result.

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