Early election ‘unlikely’ – Brown

Thursday May 25, 2017 Written by Published in Politics
Voters wait to cast their ballot on by-election day last Wednesday. 17051717 Voters wait to cast their ballot on by-election day last Wednesday. 17051717

The result of the RAPPA by-election makes it very unlikely there will be an early general election in the Cook Islands.

 

Finance minister Mark Brown told CI News that with Albert Nicholas returning to parliament, the government had secured its term until end of the electoral period.

“Expect us to go through the full term and have a general election next year.”

Brown said he was not surprised by the size of Nicholas’ new majority – he received 346 votes to his closest rival Dr Teina Rongo’s 182.

“I was confident Albert would hold the numbers of CIP supporters … it was just a matter of how many Demos would support him.

“I think he’d done enough groundwork over the past three years to demonstrate to his constituency that he is the man to represent them.

“It was a resounding victory, really. Not only a resounding victory for Albert, but also for the government in the way we are running the country.

“It certainly is a vote of confidence in us.”

And Brown is happy to have Nicholas back in parliament.

“It is good for Albert and good for Avatiu, but from a government perspective we are very happy because it provides a measure of stability.

“We have a full quorum and full majority to take us through to the end of the electoral term. It allows the government to get back to business as usual and not have to waste its time politicking and campaigning, or trying to manoeuvre with members in the House who have different vested interests.

“So now Albert can speak freely - and vote freely - in the House.

“With the Budget coming up and the expected sitting of parliament next month, we are confident we will get a lot of business pushed through.”

Brown turned his sights on Opposition leader Rose Brown and said there was now real pressure on the Opposition.

“We’ve got 12 MPs who can vote and speak freely. The Opposition has 12, but with one member who cannot vote with the freedom of the Opposition members. If she did it would threaten her seat under party-hopping legislation.”

That is the same legislation that forced Nicholas to resign as a Democratic Party MP and stand in the RAPPA by-election for the Cook Islands Party.

“The situation makes her an ineffective leader of opposition,” Brown said.

Rose Brown was elected under the CIP banner, but then moved to the Opposition ranks.

Asked if she should have resigned at the same time Nicholas did and stood in a by-election in her Atiu electorate, the Finance minister said:  “I guess from Nicholas’ perspective and the government’s perspective we had a lot more confidence he would retain his seat under the CIP banner.

“Certainly more confidence than Rose would have that she will be able to retain her seat under whichever banner she chooses in her seat.

“I think they have made it tough for themselves. We are certainly in a strong position having a full quorum and having a majority - so Opposition have put themselves in a tough position.

“The question will be whether or not the leader of the Demo party (Tina Browne) will make some strong decisions on the matter of the leadership of Opposition and her (Rose Brown’s) absence in parliament. Who will speak for her in the House - and that’s not clear to the public.

“There is pressure on the opposition. What do they do? Do they keep the same leader who cannot support their vote? It would be an Opposition bench without a leader.”

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