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OPINION: Crunching the numbers of 2022 Cook Islands General Election

Wednesday 3 August 2022 | Written by Te Tuhi Kelly | Published in Editorials, Opinion

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OPINION: Crunching the numbers of 2022 Cook Islands General Election
Progressive Party candidate Te Tuhi Kelly. Photo: SUPPLIED/22070511

If a Party can command the Pa Enua seats, then they will become the next Government. This has been a constant for several elections, writes Te Tuhi Kelly, leader of the Progressive Party of the Cook Islands.

The Cook Islands Party won six Pa Enua or Outer Islands seats and four seats in Rarotonga. The Democratic Party won five Pa Enua seats and one Rarotonga seat. The Cook Islands United Party won all their four seats in Rarotonga. The Independents won all their three seats in the Pa Enua – two in Atiu and one Mauke. One seat in Rarotonga – Ngatangiia – is tie between CIP and the United Party and awaiting the result of special votes. One Cook Islands and The Progressive Party of the Cook Islands were up against it from the start and will take the learnings from this and build on the next four years.

A total of eight seats won more than 50 per cent of the eligible votes on the night. Fifteen seats were won with under 50 per cent of eligible votes on the night with the lowest winning margin of 20 per cent of the eligible votes on the night. A total of nine candidates were voted into Parliament on less than 100 votes, the highest being 87 in Mauke and the lowest 27 in Mangaia (Tamarua). The total eligible voters on the day were (2018/2022 figures for comparison) 10,917/11,458 of this a total of 8,857/7532 voted and 2,311/3,926 did not.

The highest number of votes went to the member for Tupapa-Maraerenga with 559/458 votes or 54 per cent/34 per cent out of a total number of eligible voters of 1384/1374. The next highest being the member for Nikao-Panama with 511/452 or 37 per cent out of a total number of eligible voters of 1156/1214.

In previous elections no Independent candidate was able to gain let alone sustain a majority to be able to win an election seat (except 2018). This has been well and truly laid to rest first with Atiu and continuing the legacy with Mauke.

In the case of the two Atiu seats, both candidates had already stood for two different parties and won those seats before standing as Independents in 2018 and hence already had a toe hold politically in the communities in which they lived. They also were well established in the community and economically supported those communities through the family shop. This put them at a distinct advantage when it came to standing again as Independents in the 2022 general. They already had established their credentials and by doing so they cement their coalition chances with a main Party. In this case the CIP of 2022 who have 10 seats and possibly 11 but will require three of the Independent seats to have a majority to rule given one of their MPs is facing corruption related charges.

The most telling is the demise of the Democratic Party, and it is quite a story, that they have managed to retain only one seat in Rarotonga and five seats in the Pa Enua, attributable to the actions of the United Party and to some extent the Independents and of course their own poor history.

The United Party has arrived and has a commanding four seats in Rarotonga rivalling the CIP who have five with a possible six (Ngatangiia tie). With special votes the swing may well be towards the United Party. In either case for the United Party, Rarotonga is now a chink in the Demos armour and they are rapidly becoming a part of history of their own making. It is no longer fortuitous that Independents are short term, with the United Party they have had a major impact across the political scene, this is now the blueprint going forward and the political situation as we know it has changed for the better, I believe.

What is this telling us?

If a Party can command the Pa Enua seats, then they will become the next Government. This has been a constant for several elections and the CIP has two extra Independent Pa Enua seats to add to their total of 10 in 2022, with possible one more in Mauke and the tied seat of Ngatangiia. Either way we will potentially have a majority coalition Government in the next few days.

Any seats where the member won with 50 per cent or less eligible votes is a very marginal seat. There were five Pa Enua seats where the winning margin was under 48 per cent of the eligible votes. This can be attributed to some people not voting for various reasons such as, not bothered, no candidate or party that they wish to support or not interested in politics. Also, some of the seats had more than three candidates and hence the votes were split, and it shows in the very low percentage winning margin in Titikaveka again as in 2018.

The data also tells us that there is a huge number of undecided, can’t be bothered voters. As compared to 2018 the majority of candidates got across the line with far less votes this time round. As per the preliminary counts 34 per cent or almost 4000 registered on the electoral roll, did not bother to cast a vote (Editor – Cook Islands News pre-election poll showed 34.2 per cent of voters ‘not sure’ of which party to vote for in the 2022 election). This is a huge problem when that many eligible voters have voted with their feet.

The hardest seats to win for any Party is in the Pa Enua, these communities are essentially gated communities, and this is a strength, the communities that live together, stay together and exist together are stronger for it in the face of outside influence. This is also their achilles heel because here is where the pressure comes on to conform to a particular political stance, social stance, religious stance or community stance.

The hardest seats to win for the CIP is in Rarotonga, traditionally the stronghold of the Democratic Party, no longer. If anything is to be learned from these elections and especially for the Demo Party, once again your promises have become a rod for your back. Your inability to provide a proper opposition response over the last decade has come back to haunt you. Your political promises have caught up with you, no one believed you could deliver and where was the money to come from? The poor leadership and the decisions to stand someone outside of Mitiaro shows in the results, a wake-up call far too late.

  • Te Tuhi Kelly stood in the Nikao-Panama constituency managing only nine votes.