Candidates have been busy campaigning in their constituencies, party leaders have been popping up at functions all over the place, thousands of plates of food have been consumed, promises have been made, and attempts to win undecided votes continue.
“Keep making it happen” cries the Cook Islands Party (CIP), championing continuity and stability.
The Democratic Party (Demos) meanwhile, urges us to vote for change and elect the country’s first-ever female prime minister.
Meanwhile, potential king or queen-makers One Cook Islands (OCI) are staying quiet on their preferred coalition partners, even threatening to sit on the cross-benches. Independents are throwing their weight around too, with some publicly stating their desire to do away with party politics altogether.
As with any election, there has been no shortage of scandal and sledging.
It all began with the controversial withdrawal of Titkaveka candidate Margaret Matenga from the CIP.
Said Matenga at the time: “The level of corruption in this organisation (the CIP) is unbelievable and has become more and more evident with the events that have taken place to date”.
She eventually announced that she would run as an independent.
Then there was the controversy surrounding Rose Brown and her family.
Brown claimed that she too had been “forced out” of the CIP, after it was revealed her daughter Te-Hani would be standing for the Demos in the constituency of Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua.
Te-Hani Brown’s nomination drew criticism from some, with one person stating at the time: “What on earth are they thinking, to accept the nomination of such a young person with no experience in life – let alone in politics and good governance?”
There were allegations of China attempting to influence the election, with the Demos voicing their concerns about China’s “irregular and improper presence” in the Cook Islands, during the election period. They questioned the timing of a visit from the ambassador for the People’s Republic of China to the Cook Islands Wu Xi, who was on Rarotonga for the official handover of the $14 million Apii Nikao project, funded by the Chinese government.
The Demo’s criticism did not end there however, with the party raising concerns about the timing of a media statement from Police Commissioner Maara Tetava. The statement concerned a 2014 road accident in which prime minister Henry Puna was involved. The release came only 13 days out from election and certainly raised a few eyebrows.
The ball was then thrown back in to the Demos’ court, with many questioning what their policies were to combat the many issues they were identifying.
“I believe most of the policies the Demos have hobbled together over the past few months are ill-conceived, knee-jerk, unrealistic and simply out of fashion” said one critic.
There were also criticisms of the party’s leadership structure, with some questioning “exactly who leads the Demos?”
“The Demos lack experience at the national governance level. This serious shortcoming has been obvious during their time as opposition, whereby they dithered and simply lacked understanding, vision, and conviction” said one letter writer.
Both major party’s finance ministers have also copped flak from political critics, in the lead-up to June 14.
CIP finance spokesperson Mark Brown was criticised for his handling of Te Mato Vai, after it was reported the project would exceed its original budget by a substantial amount. CINews also revealed domestic users of water would face charges if they exceeded their free water allocation. Demo finance spokesperson James Beer was also criticised, being labelled “clueless” by some and “trying, but failing, to be both relevant and populist with all”.
One Cook Islands (OCI) has been called out for having two convicted criminals at the helm of their movement. Their policies have been labelled “utter nonsense” by some. One letter writer stated the party’s leader Teina Bishop “must have gotten his economics qualifications from a Weetbix packet”, describing the party’s major economic policies.
With the election now only days away, voters have much to consider. It is well-known that in the Cook Islands, people usually identify with the party their family votes for. However, with so much controversy surrounding the election, it remains to be seen whether or not the status quo will remain. The next few days will be filled with last-minute campaign efforts from both sides and lots of political discussions.
By June 15, we should know who will be leading this country for the next four years.