But this depends on whether there is an appeal on last week’s petition ruling on the Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua electorate by-election.
Chief Justice Sir Hugh Williams dismissed the petition filed by the losing candidate, Nandi Glassie of the Democratic Party, against winner Independent’s Te-Hani Brown. Glassie alleged bribery.
However Brown resigned from her seat when the petition was filed. Her resignation was accepted by the Queen’s Representative Sir Tom Marsters in absence of Speaker of Parliament Niki Rattle.
Chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua says if no appeal is filed, the seat is declared vacant and the by-election process commences.
Democratic Party has 20 working days from the day of judgement (Wednesday last week) to file the petition. Party leader Tina Browne said they were still weighing their options.
Tangimetua said the Court had suggested to hold off declaring the seat vacant until such time as the appeal period has elapsed, or in the event of the appeal the outcome of that decision.
“Crown Law acting on behalf of the Electoral Office will liaise with the petitioner regarding whether or not any appeal is to be filed. If no appeal is filed then the seat is declared vacant and the by-election process commences. A by-election will be conducted within 60 days after declaration,” Tangimetua said.
The petition from Glassie accused Brown, who initially won the seat in the 2018 general election, of vote-buying in lead up to the by-election in March this year.
It referred to a charter flight paid for by Brown’s electoral agent and father Taoro Brown. The charter flight flew senior ministers including Prime Minister Henry Puna and Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown over to speak at his daughter’s by-election rally on Atiu.
In his judgment, Justice Williams said Te-Hani Brown was seemingly oblivious of her father’s actions.
Neither is her mother, health minister Rose Toki-Brown, said to have known about the $5930 her husband spent on the charter flight carrying the PM and three other ministers.
Te-Hani Brown, who won the seat under the Demos banner last year, resigned after defecting to the government coalition.
Her resignation resulted in the March by-election which was also contested by former seat holder Glassie, who had previously stood for the governing Cook Islands Party.
Te-Hani Brown won the by-election, however the petition stopped her from joining the government.
The government coalition earlier said that they were looking forward to the reinstatement of Brown to Parliament through a by-election for the seat.
“It of course depends on whether the Democratic Party will take the case to a very costly Court of Appeal process. I would recommend that it would be best for them to accept the High Court’s decision and go back to the people of Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua to let them decide who they want to represent them,” said Deputy Prime Minister Mark Brown.