The Murienua petition has been decided, with Cook Islands Party candidate Patrick Akaiti Arioka named the elected Member of Parliament for the electorate by the High Court of the Cook Islands.
Justice Dame Judith Potter reached her decision last Thursday, August 30, after hearing the case on August 21, with the judgment first released to the parties involved earlier this week on Tuesday before media were informed yesterday.
The Murienua petition was filed by unsuccessful Democratic Party candidate James Vini Beer, who had previously held the Murienua seat for the past four years, and who defeated Arioka in the 2014 general election by 225 votes to 221. Arioka won the 2018 general election on June 14 by 223 votes to Beer’s 152, with One Cook Islands party candidate Teariki Taraare Unuka getting 70 votes.
In his petition, Beer alleged that money, valuable consideration and offices of employment were, directly or indirectly, given or offered to voters in order to induce them to vote for Arioka.
He alleged that corrupt or illegal practices, including government influence, were committed to help Arioka win the seat.
The petition also involved works carried out in the Murienua constituency from April 14 until the week before the election date, for which Beer alleged no authority was provided.
The only remaining petition to be decided now is the Rakahanga petition filed by Democratic Party leader Tina Browne.
While the petition was heard almost a month ago on August 10, 11 and 13, Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams is still yet to release his decision.
In her petition against CIP candidate Toka Hagai, who won the Rakahanga seat in the June 14 general election by 39 votes to 24, Browne alleged that during a meeting with the voters at Hagai’s residence on June 12, caretaker prime minister Henry Puna declared that June 14 and 15 would be public holidays on Rakahanga.
Browne alleged that one significant purpose for the declaration of a public holiday by Puna was political – to help procure the election of Hagai.