Atiu voters are dining on cartons of chicken and riding new bikes around the island, says Demos challenger June Baudinet.
She threw the bombshell into the election campaign, less than a week from Thursday’s by-election.
The 74-year-old Baudinet, a last-minute replacement as Democratic Party candidate after Nandi Glassie was hospitalised, says people were asking what she would give them in return for their votes
“There are a lot of people who are shunning me and shutting me down, asking what will I offer them because they are being offered chicken and other goods.”
Accusations of vote-buying are becoming a staple in the Cook Islands electoral diet, after complaints previously in both Atiu’s Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua and the Rakahanga seat.
One resident on the island, who wished to remain anonymous, said voters were using the opportunity to “demand” favours from the candidates.
Kau Henry, the campaign chairman for independent candidate Te-Hani Brown, responded on Brown’s behalf last night. He rubbished Baudinet’s claims.
“What June is cooking up and alleging is nothing new during campaign times”, Henry said. “All our supporters and returning families to support Te Hani don’t want to waste our time to reply to this.
“Election time is next week and we are confident where we stand, but we hope that Mama June will stay around, live with us here on Atiu and contribute to the developments of Atiu.”
Baudinet said that in her opinion, she had “seen a lot of bribery” on the island during her by-election campaign this week for the Tengatangi-Areora-Ngatiarua seat.
The 24-year-old Brown has won the seat twice previously. Her campaign team had earlier been accused of bribery by Nandi Glassie, but the allegation was declared unfounded in court.
Baudinet said: “I have been knocking the doors every day, talking to people about issues and what I plan to do which is part of my campaign. I have seen the good, ugly and the bad ...
“It’s sad to see so much unpleasantness on the island. It’s so much unlike in the past where people were happy and united.”
Despite being “shunned” by people, Baudinet said she had not lost hope and still had a good support base on the island. “My focus has been issues surrounding health, lack of doctors and shipping. There is a huge shipping problem on the island, and there are shops here who are running out of food stock and petrol.
The main store on the island is owned by Te-Hani Brown’s father, and people are reliant on it for critical supplies.
“Super Brown was the only store which had petrol and there was a long queue stretching to the road with people rushing in to fuel up this week,” Baudinet alleged.
“We are in the hurricane season and here on the island, we don’t have the food stock and petrol in the shops.”
The by-election will be held at the Catholic Hall in Areora on Thursday. There are 132 voters registered.