Niue goes to polls with 30 percent of seats already decided

Government Of Niue Assembly House

A total of 1,167 Niuean voters get a chance to elect a new parliament this weekend.

They will choose from the 17 candidates lining up for the six common roll seats, while six of the 14 village seats have already returned MPs unopposed.

One of those already back is the incumbent premier Dalton Tagelagi in Alofi South.

Esther Pavihi, the head of news at the Broadcasting Corporation of Niue (BCN), said the large number of uncontested seats show inadequacies in an electoral system put in place more nearly 60 years ago.

“The whole situation of the five incumbents going back into the next parliament and one new member uncontested – that is an outcome of a 1966 electoral system that isn’t responsive to the needs of the 21st century basically,” Pavihi said.

She said one village seat that has been controlled by a single family for 50 years and has never been contested.

The system may have made more sense when it was devised in the sixties because the population on the island then was three times what it is now, Pavihi said.

Meanwhile, among those hoping to win voters over on election day, which is Saturday local time, is a former Wellington mayor who was also a New Zealand MP and a diplomat.

Mark Blumsky, who stood unsuccessfully in 2020, has thrown his hat into the ring again.

Blumsky has lived on the island for 13 years after a spell as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to Niue and he now runs a commercial vegetable growing operation and a retail outlet there.

While he was unsuccessful three years ago he feels, with his background, that he has something to offer.

“My New Zealand connection is very helpful, especially with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the New Zealand Government. I sort of know a little bit about how they work.

“I have a very strong business focus and I think that’s important that that voice goes into the House and my experiences with the mayoralty and parliament in New Zealand and so on will add to the strength of the mix,” he said.

Niue’s finance minister, Crossley Tatui, who’s also contesting the common seats, is hoping the current government gets another chance to implement its manifesto, after being stymied by the pandemic over the past three years.

Tagelagi’s government came to power just weeks after the virus arrived and Tatui said Covid-19 delayed their planned reforms.

“We did not have quality time to introduce our manifesto as a new government . A lot of focus was taken away by our effort to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The economic shocks that came with it. We also understand now the inflation pressures we are facing.”

A veteran politician has cast away plans to retire and is standing again.

Terry Coe was finance minister in the distant past but in more recent years has proven to be a thorn in the sides of successive governments.

He was ready to step down but persuaded to try again.

“People have asked me to stay on, but the other thing is I see myself as – I would like to become a minister, if possible, to get some of the work done. We are lagging in the work,” he said.

“The present ministers they have been very slow in acting to the people’s needs and I thought if I get in and become a minister maybe I can push things along,” he said.

Coe wants to see an emphasis on education, health and the roading system, which he said all appear to be run down at the moment. He also wants to see an end to the five days pay for four days work that has existed in the Niue public service since the Talagi years.