In one of the biggest upsets of election night, Brown of the Cook Islands Party took out George of the Democratic Party by a vote count of 61-42.
“Everybody’s happy, my supporters are over the moon ... except for the other side,” said Brown with measured composure, despite unseating George – a fixture of Cook Islands politics for roughly three decades.
Brown said once preliminary results confirmed her tentative win, prayers were held and celebrations began with fellow Atiuan and CIP MP Nandi Glassie, who held onto his seat after defeating Eugene Tatuava of the Demos.
“In all my 35 years of experience, this is the worst,” he said.
George claims there was widespread bribery during the campaign period, with voters being induced by pricey material goods.
“We’re not dealing with $10 plates of food, we are dealing with thousand-dollar motorcycles... these are serious cash bribes,” he said.
George said he delayed his return to Rarotonga this week to obtain written statements from constituents, which will be used in a petition he intends to file in court. He added Tatuava is also planning to petition his result in neighbouring Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua.
“I’m not worried, I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m, not scared. The people have voted for change in Teenui-Mapuamai,” said Brown when asked about the allegations.
If Brown holds on to her victory once final results are announced and after any potential court battle, she said she wants to get to work quickly, but refrained from getting into details on her first tasks.
“There are going to be a lot of things happening. I don’t want to open my mouth yet,” she said. “That’s what I said during my campaign. I didn’t make any promises; I said I would do my best and do whatever I can for the people.”
“I just want to thank all of my supporters and all the people here.”
Brown – a newcomer to politics - said she will be returning to Rarotonga on Monday.
If George does lodge a petition it has to be lodged with the High Court by July 25. Given the closeness of the race in a number of other constituencies, it will probably be only one of a number of petitions lodged, which could take some time to be heard.
In the meantime, if the tied vote in the Mangaian constituency of Tamarua is not resolved once special votes are taken into account, the Returning Officer will makes an application for a recount.
If the recount returns a tied result again, the court will direct the Chief Electoral Officer to conduct a by-election within two months.
Who wins this seat could make a difference as to who will form the next government. Currently, the Demos have enough seats on paper to form a collation with One Cook Islands, but if the Tamavua seat is eventually won by the Cook Islands Party then both CIP and the Demos would have 12 seats each based on election night results – giving One Cook Islands a choice as to who they will support as a coalition partner.