It’s a question I will come back to a little later on.
I have now had the unique opportunity to work in two elections, one for the Democratic Party and one for the Cook Islands Party, as well as a by-election in Aitutaki.
The learning has been tremendous, as has been the opportunity to understand better the inner workings of government and the experience of seeing it from the inside. It has given me a greater respect for the Office of the Prime Minister and all it stands for, and a better understanding as to what is expected of it on a daily basis.
As I now look to stand as a political candidate in 2022, the clock is ticking. Those four years will go by fast enough and this week’s column is my first public announcement of my intention to run as a candidate in the next election.
Though those who know me well, will not be surprised, what is clear is that there have been some sizeable shifts and how and who we vote for in Rarotonga and the Pa Enua.
Party politics have waned under the weight of the capacity or the ability of candidates to represent the best interests of the communities they are standing for. What is clear is that households that once voted strictly on party lines, have now been divided by a more careful consideration of the ability to vote and who to vote for.
One electorate had a result that turned previous results on their heads, and much of that had to do with people connecting with a candidate they felt could lead them into the future, and a team that capitalised on the many under-40s who lived in their area.
For those who felt the win was theirs, just because of a party allegiance in times past or that it was theirs out of some sense of entitlement, will now be confronted by the harsh reality of last night’s voting decisions.
What is clear is that we expect more, want to hear more,and engage more with the people we elect to represent our needs, our communities’ needs and our nation’s needs.
We are a country now divided more by attitude then by party and by a need for good reasons to give a candidate our vote. Though nothing will dispel the power of standing for a party and party politics, it would seem that we want more, expect more and expect that the person we vote for will be able to truly represent us and not be seduced by the baubles of power or the benefits that the position may bring as one generation has had many voted out and another generation makes its way in.
We have been quite sober in our approach to voting and so we should. In a world dominated by fake news and news of the abuse of power or its mismanagement, we the voters of the Cook Islands have had the somber task to determine our future and determine that we have and we have done so with a more enagged youth vote and a more engaged social media presence.
So again I ask the question, did the Cook Islands people win this election? Actually we won’t know for a week or two as final counts are counted as well as declaration votes and special votes. We may not truly know until the inevitable petitions have been dealt with or maybe the numbers will determine a government outright and the choice will be made for us.
Either way, there is an expectation that issues like foreign aid, tourism, infrastructure, reform, gender, health and our roads will be addressed, and addressed soon by whoever is at the helm of our beautiful paradise. And in four years, those successful candidates will face the scrutiny of the people again and they will decide as to whether they are fit to continue to serve or be returned to civilian life again.
So to address the question I posed earlier, I do believe the Cook Islands people are the winners. When I went into the booth yesterday and made my vote, I knew that my vote counted for something. I knew that I could vote with the freedom to vote without pressure or duress. I knew that there would be no reprisals for who I voted for and that no bribery or payment came my way to influence my vote.
And I would be disapointed greatly if I heard or found that bribery and treating did in any way effect a person’s right to vote as they so desired.
Our democracy must be guarded for the treasure that it is. It can never be sold to the highest bidder nor should it be influenced by gifts of any kind. We have a democracy because others paid for it with their lives and we should treat it with the respect it is due.
To every candidate that will be a winner after the final count I congratulate you in what I know has been a very costly and timely election. To those that lose after the final count, it must be said that anyone who ventures into this arena is worthy of applause, because it is a venture not to be taken lightly.
In the end, we deserve the leaders we elect and the government we vote for. And that’s something I will understand better as we get closer to the next election and I make my bid to stand in 2022.