WikiLeaks cable: September 28, 2006 Cook Islands: Preliminary election results

Photo / Mark Mitchell
Photo / Mark Mitchell

September 28, 2006
Cook Islands: Preliminary election results

date:2006-09-28T03:00:00
source:Embassy Wellington
origin:06WELLINGTON762
destination:VZCZCXRO2553 RR RUEHPB DE RUEHWL #0762 2710300 ZNY CCCCC
ZZH R 280300Z SEP 06 FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC
3316 INFO RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 4554 RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY
0601 RUEHSV/AMEMBASSY SUVA 0516 RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RHHJJAA/JICPAC HONOLULU HI
classification:CONFIDENTIAL
reference:06WELLINGTON575
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000762

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP
PACOM FOR JO1E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27...
?C O N F I D E N T I A L WELLINGTON 000762

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/ANP
PACOM FOR JO1E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/27/2016
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, CW, NZ, XV
SUBJECT: COOK ISLANDS: PRELIMINARY ELECTION RESULTS

REF: A. WELLINGTON 575

B. WELLINGTON 221

(U) Classified By: Charge D'Affaires David J. Keegan, for
reasons 1.4(b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: On Tuesday, September 26, the Cooks Islands
held general elections. Preliminary results show the
Democratic Party (Demos), led by PM Jim Marurai, ahead of the
Cook Islands Party (CIP), 14 seats to 10 in the 24-seat
Parliament. New Zealand's High Commission in Rarotonga
believes the most likely outcome will be a Demos victory and
a continuation of government largely similar to its
pre-election form. There is no substantive difference
between the policy platforms of the Demos and CIP. Both
declare they oppose the practice of encouraging new members
of parliament to "party-hop" as each tries to form the next
government, even though they are likely to engage in it. End
summary.

2. (C) While final results of the September 24 Cook Islands
general election are not due until Monday, October 2, the
Demos lead the CIP 14 seats to 10 in the 24-seat parliament.
The elections follow the July 24 dissolution of Parliament as
a result of a pending vote of no confidence motion put
forward by the CIP (ref A). Five races remain close, with
separations of 10 votes or less: CIP leads in three races and
the Demos in two. Nearly 10,000 persons voted in the general
election, and between 400 and 500 absentee votes remain to be
counted. Opposition leader Henry Puna is in one of the close
races, down eight votes with 26 absentee ballots uncounted.
(FYI: Almost all absentee ballots are cast by voters who
remain inside the Cooks but temporarily reside outside their
electorates. The more than 50,000 Cook Islanders resident in
other countries are, with few exceptions, not allowed to
vote. End FYI.)

3. (U) The only candidate confirmed as a victor is Wilkie
Rasmussen (CIP), who ran unopposed in his Outer Island
electorate of Penrhyn. Though from the opposition party,
Rasmussen has been part of the Demos-dominated coalition
government as Foreign Minister. He also held the marine
resources portfolio. Such cross-fertilization has been
commonplace in Cook Islands politics, especially since 1999.
Amid increasing public discontent over loose party loyalties,
both parties featured anti-party-hopping legislation in their
respective election platforms.

4. (U) CIP Deputy leader Tupou Faireka and Finance
spokesperson Vaine Wichman appear likely to lose. Cook
Islands political commentators are reading these preliminary
results as a public backlash over CIP attempts to wrest
control of the house in the lead up to the snap election.
The media also speculates that former PM Dr. Robert Woonton
was sacked as High Commissioner to New Zealand in March by PM
Jim Marurai for plotting to topple the government after he
was accused of funneling significant financial support to the
CIP during the election. In March, Wooton was sacked as High
Commissioner to New Zealand by PM Jim Marurai for allegedly
plotting to topple the government (ref B).

5. (SBU) Once election results are formally announced,
defeated candidates have a week to file petitions to contest
the results, which means that it will be at least mid-October
before voters are certain who will be in the new parliament.
It's also possible that both parties will be encouraging
newly elected members of parliament to switch parties as the
Government is being formed. Although both parties have
pledged to eliminate party-hopping, there is still no law
preventing the practice and many practical incentives for all
involved to continue it.
Keegan

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