The run-off will make history as being the first the CIP has had in the Ngatangiia constituency, and most likely the first-ever between two women, says CIP Ngatangiia chairman Ina Tararo.
But whether one of the candidates is actually eligible to stand as a candidate is an issue that Ngatangiia CIP officials have been trying to decide.
“We’re trying to keep it simple so there are no arguments,” said Tararo.
The two hopefuls for the planned Wednesday evening runoff are Mata McNair and Lily Peyroux Henderson. The latter stood unsuccessfully in Ngatangiia for the CIP in a previous general election. CI News has been told that McNair’s eligibility is being scrutinised by the Ngatangiia CIP committee and could possibly be challenged by Henderson supporters.
“We understand it’s a big issue and we’re talking to our central committee,” saidTararo.
As for a formal challenge by Henderson or her supporters, Tararo disclosed the Ngatangiia CIP would be reluctant to have this happen.
“Lily has a right to challenge it but I don’t want this to happen. We want to solve this problem before that happens.”
Whether McNair can actually stand for the CIP needs to be examined in relation to rules under the party constitution, explained party secretary general Nooroa Roi.
A rule under the CIP constitution Clause 25, Section 1 (b) states that to be eligible to stand for the party, a candidate, “must have been loyal to the Party continuously for a minimum period of five years.”
It is that required continuous loyalty that has become an issue, as McNair was a nominee for the Democratic Party in the Ngatangiia runoff in May 2014. Current Ngatangiia MP Tamaiva Tuavera won the election runoff with 124 votes. Others who put their names forward to stand for the Democrats at the time were Steve Lyon polling 67 votes, Tutai Purua 68, Steven Peyroux 56, Mann Short 37 and Mata McNair 23. It was the largest number of nominees to ever contend village candidacy in the country’s political history.
McNair has also been publicly critical of the CIP government, prime minister and cabinet ministers in opinion columns and letters to the editor published in this newspaper. Asked if this was another reason her nomination was being questioned, Roi responded that this was a “really tough question” before the party.
It was Roi’s view that McNair “hasn’t been supporting (the CIP) for more than five years.” He added another requirement was financial membership of the CIP and registering with a party membership card.
Roi confirmed that central committee did not want to get involved with decisions made by village puna and so would be “giving it back to them to deal with and decide who is the right person to stand.”
“You pick the wrong person, you get the wrong result. We’ve told them, ‘it’s in your hands, you the committee makes the decision’.”
What is important, he added, is that the committee uses the constitution to guide them.
McNair was given the opportunity to comment on her position for this story. She did not respond to emailed questions other than to say she wished to maintain control on publicity.
Whether the runoff will be confined to just Ngatangiia CIP members or all eligible voters in the village isn’t clear.
Henderson’s flyer says the “process will be open to all voters in Ngatangiia.”
Tararo says initially, “the idea was that it was for CIP only. But now when you think about it, we can’t tell who is who and which party people belong to.”
On the other hand, the secretary general says voters will need to produce a CIP membership card. The same has applied to Democratic party runoffs. Businesswoman Henderson’s flyer states she is a “lifelong, loyal member/supporter of the Cook Islands Party.”
Major Ngatangiia issues for Henderson include road safety, environment, employment, education, health, public health and women’s rights and wellbeing.
Roi has confirmed the next CIP national conference will be held in August when outer islands representatives will be on Rarotonga for the Te Maeva Nui Festival and the 52nd Constitution Celebrations.