11 Aug 2006

Cooks foreign minister Rasmussen switches party

3:14 pm on 11 August 2006

Suggestions that a senior cabinet minister was dumped from the opposition party in the Cook Islands are being denied.

The Cook Islands foreign minister, Wilkie Rasmussen, has defected from the Cook Islands Party and is standing for the ruling Democratic Party in the snap election.

Mr Rasmussen stood for the CIP in 2004, winning the Penrhyn seat by a majority of just nine votes.

While most of the CIP remained in opposition Mr Rasmussen became a cabinet minister in the Jim Marurai led government.

But he's now opted to stand as a Democrat in the election to be held on September 26th.

The leader of the Democrats, Dr Terepai Maoate, says Mr Rasmussen has always been a strong supporter of his party.

He says there's no question of his being dropped from the CIP.

"As far as I understand the Cook Islands Party was still trying to get him back and stand for the CIP, but he's opted to come over and stand for the Democratic Party instead."

No-one else is contesting the Penrhyn seat.