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Demos take back Tamarua seat

Friday September 26, 2014 Written by Published in Politics
Member of Parliament for Tamarua Tetangi Matapo, pictured here when she was sworn in for her first term of office in February 2013. 14092508 Member of Parliament for Tamarua Tetangi Matapo, pictured here when she was sworn in for her first term of office in February 2013. 14092508

A High Court decision has resulted in the Democratic Party eliminating what was a slim one-seat majority held by the Cook Islands Party.

Yesterday, Chief Justice Thomas Weston delivered a decision which upheld a number of grounds in a petition launched by the Demos contesting the result in the constituency of Tamarua in Mangaia.
As a result, Demo candidate Tetangi Matapo has now been declared as the island’s Member of Parliament, taking  the seat away from Tokorua Pareina of the Cook Islands Party and reshaping the nation’s political landscape.
As it now stands, the current makeup of Parliament has the CIP with 12 seats, the Demos with 9, and One Cook Islands with 2.
The final seat – representing the constituency of Mitiaro – will be subject to a by-election, likely to be held in November.
The Demo petition dealt with a number of vote challenges, as well as allegations of bribery and treating.
The judgement, made by Justice Sir Hugh Williams after court hearings held earlier this month in both Rarotonga and Mangaia, included rulings on voter challenges which overturned the result that previously had the CIP’s Pareina declared as the victor by a count of 28 to 27 votes.
The challenges involved five electors and questioned whether they were qualified to cast votes during  July’s general elections.
At 44 pages, the judgement reveals the complex nature of the challenges and the law involved.
An allegation that Pareina committed bribery when a payment was made for the airfare of a constituent was dismissed. A separate allegation of treating was withdrawn by Demo lawyer Tina Browne and not dealt with during the proceedings.
As part of William’s judgement, a recount of votes has also been ordered to affirm the numbers.
After five of the Demo’s six petitions were dismissed by the court, the Tamarua result was welcomed by the Party.
“It’s positive, we got one back,” said Ruaau MP William ‘Smiley’ Heather.
With Mitiaro still up for grabs, Heather said another election could be a possibility if the by-election result swings in the Demo’s favour.
Tony Manarangi, lawyer for the CIP throughout the petition proceedings, took the announcement in his stride.
“You can’t win them all,”
he said.
Notwithstanding any possible appeals of the decisions, Parliament now appears to be set for an upcoming sitting, roughly scheduled for next month.
Yesterday, Demo Leader Wilkie Rasmussen said the Party has yet to officially file appeals with the High court. Previously, he said the Party could appeal as many as three petition decisions.

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