Electoral petitions a post-election ritual in the Cook Islands

Tuesday July 10, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor
The most “famous” election petitions in the Cook Islands were lodged in the era of the country’s fi rst premier, Albert Henry. Henry is pictured (left) with the fi rst government of the Cook Islands following self-government in 1965. Also pictured are Minister of Health Dr Manea Tamarua, Minister of Education Mana Strickland, Attorney General and Post Offi ce Minister Julian Dashwood, Minister of Agriculture Apenera Short and Minister of Public Works Tiakana Numanga. 18070970The most “famous” election petitions in the Cook Islands were lodged in the era of the country’s fi rst premier, Albert Henry. Henry is pictured (left) with the fi rst government of the Cook Islands following self-government in 1965. Also pictured are Minister of Health Dr Manea Tamarua, Minister of Education Mana Strickland, Attorney General and Post Offi ce Minister Julian Dashwood, Minister of Agriculture Apenera Short and Minister of Public Works Tiakana Numanga. 18070970 The most “famous” election petitions in the Cook Islands were lodged in the era of the country’s fi rst premier, Albert Henry. Henry is pictured (left) with the fi rst government of the Cook Islands following self-government in 1965. Also pictured are Minister of Health Dr Manea Tamarua, Minister of Education Mana Strickland, Attorney General and Post Offi ce Minister Julian Dashwood, Minister of Agriculture Apenera Short and Minister of Public Works Tiakana Numanga. 18070970The most “famous” election petitions in the Cook Islands were lodged in the era of the country’s fi rst premier, Albert Henry. Henry is pictured (left) with the fi rst government of the Cook Islands following self-government in 1965. Also pictured are Minister of Health Dr Manea Tamarua, Minister of Education Mana Strickland, Attorney General and Post Offi ce Minister Julian Dashwood, Minister of Agriculture Apenera Short and Minister of Public Works Tiakana Numanga. 18070970

Dear Editor,

Electoral petitions seem to have become a post-election ritual in the Cook Islands.

The 2018 elections are no exception, with six electoral petitions having been lodged.

The application by Nane Williams in the Mauke electorate is no surprise, given the incredibly close tally for that seat.

The others are not so clear, so it will be intriguing to find out the precise nature of the complaints in the petitions.

However, given the extremely slim margin of seats between the two major parties – 11 to 10 – success in even one or two petitions can dramatically alter the political landscape.

For instance, if Kaka Ama were successful, that would bring the CIP to 11. If so, would one of the newly appointed interim ministers then be bumped off their perch?

Historically, the most famous – or infamous – election petitions in the Cook Islands were in relation to the fly-in voter scandal by the Cook Islands Party during the administration of Sir Albert Henry.

These petitions culminated in the 1978 ruling by the High Court that the CIP had committed bribery and corruption on a grand scale.

It was a complex case but in a nutshell, the CIP administration sanctioned an elaborate scheme to charter flights to fly in voters from New Zealand to shore up their flagging support base in the general elections.

With the help of a wealthy supporter, a certain Finbar Kenny, they devised an ingenious plan to obscure the fact that the finance for the charter return flight was really from public money.

Free passage on the charter flights were available only to CIP voters – but not to supporters of the Democratic Party.

At the ensuing court case, the evidence was damning and under intense cross-examination all was revealed.

The court ruling disallowed all the fly-in votes, which led to the CIP losing their majority in the House, which in turn led to their losing office.

Fast forward to the 2018 petitions and let’s see what the outcome in each case will be. Que sera, sera.

            Noeline Browne

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