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May date chosen for by-election in Cook Islands
6:53 pm GMT+12, 16/04/2017, Cook Islands

The by-election in former Cook Islands Internal Affairs minister Albert Nicholas’ Avatiu-Ruatonga constituency will be held on 17 May.
 
The constituency includes the tapere of Avatiu, Ruatonga and Atupa as well as Palmerston Island.
 
A public notice sent to CI News by Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua said nominations for candidates will close on April 28 at 12 noon. Nominations must be accompanied by the payment of $500.
 
The main roll will close on April 18 at 4pm, with objections to names on the roll closing on April 25 at 4pm. The supplementary roll will close on May 2, again at 4pm, with objections closing on May 10.
 
Tangimetua said those eligible to vote should first update their details with the Electoral Office.
 
The by-election was triggered when Nicholas decided to resign in a bid to end continued controversy over his move from the Demo Party to the Cook Islands Party back in 2014.
 
His decision was announced by prime minister Henry Puna, rather than Nicholas and the prime minister jointly.
 
Nicholas will stand for the Cook Islands Party and is considered a certain winner, meaning he will then be able to vote with the government on matters of supply.
 
Last month an Opposition attempt to have Nicholas’ seat declared vacant was dismissed by the High Court in a judgement which said the move could not have succeeded on the facts. However, the court decision clarified several matters involving anti vaka-hopping legislation.
 
The prime minister told CI News the resignation was the right thing for Nicholas to do, as the High Court judgement had clarified his status as an MP.
 
He said Nicholas had been instrumental in initiating his own resignation because he wanted to ‘do the right thing’.
 
“He doesn’t want to take a free ride for the rest of the parliamentary term. He wants to be an active participating MP in all the business of parliament and government.”
 
If re-elected, Nicholas would go straight back into his position as a Cabinet minister, the prime minister said.
 
The question now is what Opposition parliamentary leader Rose Brown will do, with the prime minister claiming that as a result of the court judgement, Brown’s position as a “vaka jumper” is completely untenable.
 
Earlier this week there was talk of Brown also resigning, and putting herself up for re-election as a One Cook Islands Party MP.  
 
However, one source with knowledge of the issue said it would make more sense for the Teenui-Mapumai MP to stand as an independent.


SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS


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