18 Nov 2010

Cook Islands general elections gets underway

8:09 am on 18 November 2010

Polling stations in the Cook Islands are now open for the country's general elections.

Voters will be given two forms, one to vote for the MP of their choice and the other a referendum on political reform.

Our correspondent in Rarotonga, Florence Syme Buchanan reports:

"The one question in the referendum asks voters should there be a reduction in the number of Members of Parliament? And the referendum results won't be known for about a week. Today's elections end three weeks of intense campaigning by 70 candidates vying for a place in the 24-seat parliament. Campaigning has been especially concentrated on the main island of Rarotonga which has ten seats. The mood here on Rarotonga is generally that people will be glad when it's all over and local media, especially our local TV, are no longer dominated by political campaigning. People have been inundated with political broadcasts, campaign songs, advertising, fundraising events like raffles and barbeques and of course the home visits by political hopefuls. But there is also general relief that the campaign has been relatively clean with candidates focusing on issues rather than attacking each other. It could be weeks until such time a new government is formed. Until that happens the current government will assume the role of caretaker government and will continue to administer the country - so business can carry on as usual. Election petitions could also take months. It's a fine day in the Cook Islands, so voting is expected to happen quickly with the first results from smaller constituencies being available about an hour after the polls close at 6pm local time."