But last Thursday during the Ivirua by-election, Armstrong gained enough votes to register a fairly comfortable win over his Cook Islands Party opponent, Oromai Harry who had 36 votes.
Armstrong recorded 45 votes after the preliminary count on Thursday. Six declaratory votes were still to come in, said Chief Electoral Officer Taggy Tangimetua shortly after announcing the by-election results.
Tangimetua confirmed just 80 people had been registered to vote in the by-election, made necessary after the retirement of the widely-respected Jim Marurai who held the seat for many years and stood unopposed in at least two general elections.
At a kaikai on Mangaia the next night to celebrate the win, Kavana Daddy Mouriaiti, the paramount chief for the district, had a simple but powerful message for around 60 people who gathered to feast and make speeches.
His message was to move forward as one people and, in an obvious reference to politics, he urged people to leave behind the things that separated Ivirua residents. Kavana Mouriaiti said above all, there were three things that the people of Ivirua needed to always remember: Honesty, loyalty and righteousness.”
Asked if he had expected to win, Armstrong said he had based his expectations on the village’s Demo voting history and the people themselves.
“They are very straightforward and they mean what they say. If they say they’re going to do something, they will do it.”
Armstrong’s team isn’t expecting electoral challenges that could prolong his entry into parliament after being sworn in and the man who Ivirua Demos believe will be the country’s newest MP, after all the official business is done. It will be all about getting back to his constituency and determining what priorities the people of Ivirua have in mind.
He believes the Ivirua approach will be different to what happens in other constituencies where matters to address are often decided on the spot, and not by the constituents.
“We will do things in consultation with the constituency. This is the way we will do it here in Ivirua.”
When Armstrong moved to Mangaia 16 months ago with his wife Agnes (nee Sword) it was to focus on planting, starting large orchards in the islands’ rich soil. Both know Mangaia has the potential to become a true “food basket” and supply Rarotonga with all the vegetables that are currently flown in from New Zealand and retailed at eye-watering prices.
“I came here for something, to plant, and now this (politics) has come in, it’s another challenge but I’m looking forward to doing this.”
Asked how he finds living on Mangaia, Armstrong points to a large group of children playing on a lawn nearby: “Look at them, they all walk together. Each child is welcome in any home in the village.
It’s something charming that Rarotonga had 50 years ago “when we were kids”, says Armstrong. “But it’s still happening here and it works. No one goes hungry and no-one is left out.
“It’s just the way people are on Mangaia and the values they have. They may not have much, but they make do with what they have and they look after each other; they share.”