10 Sep 2004

Special votes crucial to Cook Islands poll outcome

7:33 am on 10 September 2004

Special votes are expected to determine the outcome of the Cook Islands general elections with ten seats hanging in the balance.

The final count begins today with two constituencies.

Linda Skates reports from Rarotonga.

"The chief registrar of electors, Terry Hagan, says this is the highest number of special votes, votes in advance, declaratory and postal votes, experienced in an election, and they are likely to determine the outcome of who wins which seat."

The preliminary results show that ten out of the 24 electorates have fewer than 20 votes separating the leading candidates. Mr Hagan says the final count is expected to begin today in the Nikau/Panama and the Takuvaine-Tutakimoa electorates, and candidates will have scrutineers watching the process.

He says they're beginning with the Southern group and Rarotonga which they hope to complete by the end of the weekend. The final counts for some of the northern group islands, which are without air services, start when the boat with the ballot boxes arrives early next week.

It's a tense wait for the potential MPs of the Democratic and Cook Islands parties because it will determine who rules the country. The Democratic party currently has 12 seats and the CIP has eleven.