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Puna back as Cook Islands Prime Minister?

Pending any successful petition against winning candidates in last month’s general elections in the Cook Islands, incumbent Prime Minister Henry Puna (pictured) and his Cook Islands Party are poised for another term in government. Final election results put Puna’s CIP winning 13 seats in the 24-seat parliament while the Democratic Party took eight seats and the One Cook Islands two seats. One other constituency had a tie so a recount would have to take place. According to Cook Islands News newspaper, some big casualties of the elections included Democratic Party Leader Wilkie Rasmussen who went into the July elections as caretaker Leader of the Opposition. Also out is flamboyant Democratic MP Norman George who was unseated from his seat of Teenui-Mapumai by a political newcomer, Rose Toki Brown of CIP. Both veteran politicians have vowed to contest their loss in court.

The island’s elections office said 8,364 voters took part in the polls, representing a voter turn out of 79 per cent. Preliminary results had suggested a win by the Democrats but the table was turned when postal votes were counted. Declaring victory from his constituency on Manihiki Island, caretaker PM Puna flew back to the capital Rarotonga on the final week of July on a chartered flight. Final results showed Puna winning his seat by the slimmest of margins. He beat his opponent, Tereapii Piho of the Democrats by a mere four votes. Puna told Cook Island News that he would be visiting the island’s head of state – the Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters – “as soon as possible” in order for his government to resume office. When the swearing in would eventually take place could not be determined however because Cook Island News is reporting that the Queen’s Representative is overseas attending the Commonwealth Games in Scotland.

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