Yesterday, a decision read by Chief Justice Thomas Weston of the Cook Islands High Court included judgements on a number of voter qualification challenges and several allegations of bribery.
Despite upholding one count of bribery, Weston dismissed the petition, affirming the incumbent Ioane’s election night victory.
As a result of the decision, M. Ioane – a Cabinet member in Prime Minister Henry Puna’s caretaker Government – had his six vote election night lead over Democratic Party candidate Kete Ioane reduced by a number of votes, details of which will be included in an upcoming written decision.
Specifics of the single, upheld count of bribery surrounded the appointment of one of three field officers in Aitutaki by the CIP’s Ioane shortly after the dissolution of Parliament in April.
According to Weston’s decision, the appointment of one of the field officers constituted bribery, as it was found that the job offer included an attempt to induce the voter to cast a ballot in his favour. The court heard that the voter was registered at one point to vote in Tupapa-Maraerenga, however, upon being offered the position, a change was made to be allowed to vote in Vaipae-Tautu.
Weston ruled that the specific appointment could be treated separately from the other two, and that the victorious Ioane had sought advice on the appointments and evidence of further inducement was “thin”.
As a result of the judgement, Weston struck off the bribed field officer’s vote from the result, but the change was not sufficient to alter the final result.