Close call on general election

Wednesday June 13, 2018 Written by Published in Politics
CIP leader Henry Puna and Demo leader Tina Browne. CIP leader Henry Puna and Demo leader Tina Browne.

The 2018 CINews election poll has placed the Democratic Party one seat ahead of the Cook Islands Party (CIP) heading in to tomorrow’s election.

According to the poll, neither party will hold a majority of 13 seats, which is required to govern alone.

Both of the major party’s leaders are expected to win their respective constituency vote. The CIP are expected to sweep all three seats in Aitutaki, though One Cook Islands (OCI) candidate Pumati Isaraela may have something to say about that.

In Atiu, Demo candidates Tania Akai and Te-Hani Brown are expected to cause an upset and steal their respective constituencies from the CIP.

Based on the respondent’s preferred parties, the Demos are poised to win 11 seats and the CIP 10, with the three constituencies of Matavera, Ruuau, and Penrhyn still yet to be decided.

Agriculture minister Kiriau Turepu is currently the member of parliament (MP) for Matavera, after beating Demo candidate Cassey Eggelton by just 18 votes at the last election. Turepu is once again expected to have a battle on his hands, with the Demos this time fielding local stalwart Vaitoti Tupa as their candidate.

Ruaau is currently represented by William “Smiley” Heather, who won a solid majority of 61.1 per cent of the vote at the last election. However, local businessman Arama Joseph Wichman has obviously made an impression on the electorate, with Ruaau now splitting their vote 50/50 between the two candidates.

One of the more interesting battles is for the seat of Penrhyn, currently held by the CIP’s Willie John. At the last election, John took the seat from then Demo Party leader Wilkie Rasmussen, who had held the seat since 2002. The duo will once again square off this election, in what could prove to be a critical seat.

The tightly-contested seat of Titikaveka, currently held by the Democratic Party’s Selina Napa, is expected to change hands to the CIP. However, poll results also show that the independent candidates may stand a chance, with 37.5 percent of respondents within the constituency choosing “other” as their preferred party.

According to the poll, OCI will fail to win a constituency. In the seat of Tupapa-Mararenga, usually considered an OCI stronghold, Demo candidate Lee Harmon is expected to beat George “Action Man” Maggie. Just over 33 percent of poll respondents from the area picked the Demos as their preferred party, whilst OCI managed only 8.3 per cent. At the last election, Maggie beat Harmon by 216 votes. However, the CIP is not contesting the constituency this time around and the extra 200 votes could play a major role in deciding its representative.

With the nation heading to the polls tomorrow, there is still no clear frontrunner. Perhaps most surprising is poll responses indicate that potential kingmakers OCI will not return to parliament. This could leave the door wide-open for a single independent to hold the balance of power come June 15. There could also be a hung parliament, which could result in a candidate crossing the floor to provide a majority, or alternatively a new election will be held.

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