Results for all of the Cook Islands’ 24 constituencies were finalised late Thursday by the Chief Electoral Officer after a week of recounts, which have resulted in the Cook Islands Party winning a slim majority with 13 seats.
Final results indicate 8364 voters made their way to the ballot box in the election - an additional 1236 votes compared to the preliminaries.
The surge in votes cast had the effect of increasing turnout in the election to 79 per cent, from a preliminary turnout of 73.3 per cent.
Based on previous comments from Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua, the final count was to include approximately 400 advance votes, at least 100 postal votes out of a total 300 issued, and an additional 100 votes by declaration.
Assuming all 300 postal votes were returned, only a maximum of roughly 800 votes should have been added to the preliminary tally.
Queries to the Chief Electoral Office about the sudden appearance of over 430 votes were left unanswered yesterday, but the office acknowledged Tangimetua was absent due to illness.
Further issues in the election were raised by an official with one of the major political parties, who said a scrutineer reported seeing ballot boxes containing votes by declaration opened prior to the commencement of the actual counting process.
It is understood the Democratic Party held a series of meetings to discuss the election yesterday, which included leader Wilkie Rasmussen and the party’s legal team.
The impromptu release of results on Thursday night caught members of the public and at least two candidates off guard, who ended up learning about the final result through a Radio New Zealand report.
The Chief Electoral Office had previously indicated they were set to release the final set of results on Friday, and defeated candidate Norman George has told Radio Australia he was also expecting a Friday release.
CINews – which learned about the results from a victorious Member of Parliament - lodged an official complaint yesterday with the Ministry of Justice over the matter.
Additional concern of the handling of the final numbers was also raised by a member of the Cook Islands media community, who said it was odd to learn of the final result through a foreign media source.