20 Oct 2004

Cook Islands lawyer questions eligibility of voters in prime minister's electorate

2:31 pm on 20 October 2004

The eligibility of some voters in the electorate won by the Cook Islands prime minister, Dr Robert Woonton, is being taken to the Appeal Court.

Tim Arnold, the lawyer for losing candidate Henry Puna, says there are questions over whether five people should have been allowed to vote for the electorate of Manihiki, when they resided on Rarotonga.

He says they're also challenging three other votes on technical issues.

Dr Woonton won by 142 to 138, a margin of only four.

Mr Arnold says up until now, the high court has only ruled that it has jurisdiction over whether people were absent or present in the country, not on eligibility over constituencies.

But, he says the constitution allows this question to be addressed.

"I've asked the question as to why article 27 had not been considered by the court and by other counsel - a - it seemed to be a pretty strong argument and b - it had not been brought to the attention of the judge. That's obviously a little awkward for all of us."

Mr Arnold says the allegations of bribery and undue influence are still to be considered.