Cook Islands Election Petitions Heard This Week

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Composition of new government hangs in the balance

By Emmanuel Samoglou

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, August 30, 2014) – Finalisation of the next government of the Cook Islands is imminent, with the beginning of the High Court’s petition hearings next week.

Political observers will be watching the proceedings closely, as the Cook Islands Party is currently holding on to a razor-thin majority with 13 seats in the 24-seat Parliament.

Eight of the remaining seats are held by the Democratic Party, two for One Cook Islands, and the court will likely be breaking the tie in Mitiaro after hearing petitions on the island’s result.

Court proceedings are scheduled to kick off in Mangaia at Keia Hall, where Justice Sir Hugh Williams will begin hearing arguments by lawyers representing Tetangi Matapo of the Democratic Party.

Matapo was defeated by Tokorua Pareina of the Cook Islands Party on election night by one vote.

An appeal was lodged by the Demos regarding the eligibility of two voters prior to the election, which also has to be dealt with by the court.

Court Registrar Claudine Henry-Anguna has also scheduled Tuesday for Mangaia’s petition matters, when the court travels back to Rarotonga.

The remainder of the week has been allocated to two high-profile petitions for the island of Atiu, both of which include multiple allegations of bribery and treating.

On Wednesday, the court travels to Atiu’s CICC Sunday School Hall to hear petitions filed by Demo candidates Eugene Tatuava and Norman George.

The two are contesting their election night defeats at the hands of incumbent Cabinet Minister Nandi Glassie and newcomer Rose Toki Brown – both CIP candidates.

The court travels back to Rarotonga on Thursday and Friday for hearings to be held at Avarua Courthouse.

Proceedings are scheduled to continue the following week, when petitions for Penrhyn, Manihiki, and Vaipae-Tautu in Aitutaki are heard by Chief Justice Tom Weston.

During those proceedings, caretaker Prime Minister Henry Puna will be attempting to hold onto his Manihiki seat and have allegations of bribery made by Demo candidate Apii Piho thrown out.

Demo Party Leader and former Leader of the Opposition Wilkie Rasmussen will also be fighting for political survival, as he attempts to win his seat back from the CIP’s Willie John.

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