Court Dismisses Cook Islands Party Appeal; Democrats Get Mitiaro

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Coming by-election to determine balance of power in Parliament

By Phillipa Webb

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 5, 2015) – The Democratic Party flag will be flying in Mitiaro after the Court of Appeal dismissed the Cook Islands Party appeal, raising the stakes in the upcoming Vaipae-Tautu by-election.

Late on Tuesday a Court of Appeal decision was released by judges Ian Barker, Barry Paterson and Robert Fisher dismissing the Cook Islands party appeal and making Democratic Party member Tangata Vavia the winner over Cook Islands Party candidate Tuakeu Tangatapoto.

Auckland lawyer and counsel for the CIP, Paul Dale said the party’s argument was that a vote should be excluded, as the voter had chosen to leave Mitiaro for medical reasons.

As the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, CIP must pay the two respondents – the Democratic Party and the Electoral Office - $5,000 [US$3,800] plus their legal team’s travel and accommodation costs.

Vavia said he was sure both parties and the people of Mitiaro would be happy that the issue was now resolved.

"I think it is time the Electoral Act was reviewed to ensure these issues of voter qualification do not come up again," he said.

Vavia said he now planned to focus on improving economic development on the small island during his time as MP.

The leaders, executives, members and supporters of the Democratic Party are overjoyed about the outcome.

The Leader of the Opposition, William ‘Smiley’ Heather said the party was overjoyed.

"We were always confident of holding Mitiaro and the Appeal Court has answered our prayers," he said.

"However we are in a short celebratory mode, our focus now is on our by-election campaign for Vaipae-Tautu and the Democratic Party support in Vaipae-Tautu is gaining momentum since the passing of Kete Ioane."

The Democratic Party candidate for the Vaipae-Tautu will be formally announced on Friday, he said.

When CINews contacted Cook Islands Party president Rau Nga he had not heard about the Mitiaro decision and said Prime Minister Henry Puna would be the best person to comment.

Prime Minister Henry Puna said Mitiaro was a disappointment but he was moving ahead, irrespective of the outcome.

His concern is stability and the priority for a successful year so that’s where he is focused, he said.

This means the Cook Islands Party has 11 seats in Parliament, the Democratic Party has 10, and One Cook Islands has two seats.

Depending on the outcome of the Vaipae-Tautu by-election on March 31, the Democratic and One Cook Islands parties may be able to form a coalition government.

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