24 Sep 2004

Cook Islands prime minister named in election petition

9:34 am on 24 September 2004

The Cook Islands Prime Minister has been accused of paying off voters in order to stay in power.

The Cook Islands News reports that the Cook Islands Party candidate Henry Puna has lodged charges of bribery and treating against the Prime Minister, Doctor Robert Woonton, in a petition to the High Court.

The petition contests the election result in the constituency of Manihiki, where Doctor Woonton kept his seat by four votes.

Mr Puna alleges the prime minister treated a group from Manihiki to a dinner on the thirtieth of August, knowing that voters in the group were to cast special votes on the following day.

Mr Puna also claims that government workers on Manihiki were told to vote for Dr Woonton or risk losing their jobs.

Thirteen petitions have now been lodged with the court.