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By-election verdict reserved

Thursday November 08, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
By-election verdict reserved

The Court of Appeal has reserved its decision on whether an interim stay on a by-election in the Rakahanga electorate, brought about by last week’s resignation of MP Toka Hagai, will stand or be lifted.


Appeal court judges were involved in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon aimed at determining whether the stay would stand until a judgement is made on Demo Party leader Tina Browne’s appeal against the election result. Hagai won the seat by eight votes.

Browne’s original electoral petition which was dismissed by the High Court, alleged Hagai had tried to sway voters by buying them food and alcohol at a campaign meeting attended by about 30 people. The case went to the Appeal Court last week.

Yesterday morning Browne said a decision on the interim stay was expected “in the next day or so, if not today”.

The Demo leader also clarified why she had been reluctant to provide CINews with comment on an Office of the Prime Minister press release announcing that Hagai had decided to resign, but had later given information to a New Zealand radio journalist.

“I spoke to them on Sunday before I took advice on Monday. I was not withholding information from you.”

Asked why the Demo Party had remained quiet lately on controversial issues including the $30 million cost blowout on the Te Mato Vai project, Browne said she had been hampered by her involvement in petition hearings, then two weeks of Land Court, followed by the Appeal Court and then the Land Court again.

While she wanted to say something more now about Hagai’s resignation, she was unable to do that until the court had announced a decision on her appeal.

However, she added she would have much more to say on the issue in coming days.

Meanwhile, with Ivirua, Mangaia Demo MP Tony Armstrong understood to be seriously ill, raising the possibility of an imminent by-election, CINews understands prime minister Henry Puna has made a visit to the island in a bid to drum up more support for the CIP.

A CIP commentator, who asked not to be identified, claimed if a by-election was held, the outcome could be more “fluid” than people expected, with increased chances of a CIP win.

At the last by-election held in Ivirua in 2017, however, Amstrong won 45 votes. This gave him a comfortable victory over his Cook Islands Party opponent Oromai Harry, who received 36 votes. The seat has long been regarded as a Demo stronghold.

The 2017 by-election followed the retirement of former Demo prime minister Jim Marurai, who held the seat for many years.

At the time, 80 people registered to vote.   

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