14 Sep 2014

Judge dismisses petition agaist Cook Islands PM

12:36 pm on 14 September 2014

The Cook Islands Prime Minister, Henry Puna, is set to keep his Manihiki seat after the High Court dismissed an electoral petition against him yesterday.

Henry Puna

Henry Puna Photo: AFP

Democratic Party candidate Apii Piho filed a petition after the announcement of results from July's election, which put Mr Puna ahead by four votes.

Mr Puna was accused of bribing voters on Manihiki with outboard motors for every household, free flights and repair of aluminium boats a week out from the election.

But Chief Justice Thomas Weston dismissed the allegations, saying Mr Puna is an experienced politician who knows where to draw the line.

Of the nine petitions lodged against July's election results, two were withdrawn by the petitioners before hearing, three petitions have been dismissed by the High Court and the other decisions are pending or yet to be heard.

The Cook Islands Party holds 13 seats in a 24-seat parliament, and the Democrats say if just two or three petitions are upheld its leadership could be threatened.

Officials are expected to fly to Aitutaki today to gather evidence on a petition filed by Democratic Party candidate Kete Ioane against Vaipae-Tautu's incumbent MP, Moana Ioane.