The Cook Islands 2018 general election has resulted in more questions than answers, with neither of the major parties gaining enough seats to be able to form a majority government.
Two independents were elected to parliament, alongside OCI candidate George Maggie.
A total of 7516 Cook Islanders voted in this year’s election, a turnout of only 68.8 per cent. The Democratic Party (Demos) are favoured to form a government, and hold a one seat advantage over the Cook Islands Party (CIP).
Preliminary results have the Demos holding 11 seats and the CIP 10. One Cook Islands (OCI) hold the solitary seat of Tupapa-Maraerenga, although the final count of the Mauke constituency may see it change hands to Tungane Williams and OCI. At the time of print, Williams is only one vote behind the CIP’s Tai Tura.
There were also some major upsets recorded on the night. The Demo leader and deputy leader both lost their respective seats. Tina Browne was defeated 28 votes to 20 in the constituency of Rakahanga and James Beer lost the seat of Murienua to Patrick Arioka by a total of 70 votes (see story page 2).
In Akaoa, Demo candidate Nooroa Baker defeated former deputy prime minister Teariki Heather 201 votes to 179.
With two Demo leaders losing their seats, questions are now being asked as to who will lead the party and become prime minister, should OCI and the independent candidates choose to form a government with them. Political pundits are favouring William “Smiley” Heather, who beat the CIP’s Arama Wichman with a total of 323 votes in the constituency of Ruaau.
However, the night belonged to the minorities.
In Penrhyn, independent candidate Robert Tapaitau stole the show from Willie John and Wilkie Rasmussen, both of whom have previously represented the constituency.
Tapaitau received a total of 48 votes, beating his nearest rival by 19. Little is known about Tapaitau and his policies, although CINews believes he was once a candidate for the Demos.
The mother and daughter duo of Te-Hani and Rose Brown also had cause for celebration last night, after both were voted in to parliament.
The pair will be able to put the controversial election behind them and can now focus on their future political careers.
Rose Brown stood as independent and defeated the incumbent Nandi Glassie by 61 votes to 42. At the age of 22, Rose’s daughter Te-Hani is believed to be the youngest-ever MP in the Cook Islands.
Te-Hani stood for the Demos, possibly giving an inclination of who her mother may support in forming a government.
George Maggie says the decision about who he will support is one that must be made by his constituents. He has promised to hold a meeting with the people of Tupapa-Mararenga, in-order to determine who that will be.
It is likely that the two independents, as well as George Maggie, will meet with leaders from both of the major parties in the next few days.
Negotiations are likely to take place, with policy concessions likely to occur. As the numbers stand, the CIP would need the support of all three independents, in-order to be able to form a one seat majority government.
The Demos could do it with the support of just two independents.
Other possible scenarios include members crossing the floor to form a majority or the independents splitting their support, possibly causing a hung parliament. CINews will track all negotiations and bring you updates as they come. Further analysis of the election will be included in tomorrow’s CINews.