7 Nov 2018

Cook Islands MP resigns amid legal action

8:20 am on 7 November 2018

A Cook Islands MP has resigned after an electoral petition was brought against him alleging he treated voters during the June election.

Rakahanga MP Toka Hagai.

Rakahanga MP Toka Hagai. Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

The member for Rakahaga, Toka Hagai from the Cook Islands Party, stepped down on Thursday but will contest a by-election.

Democratic Party leader Tina Browne, who lost the seat to Mr Hagai by just eight votes, said he tried to sway voters.

Ms Browne said Mr Hagai treated voters to food and alcohol at a campaign meeting where about 30 people were present.

Cook Islands Democratic Party leader, Tina Browne

Cook Islands Democratic Party leader, Tina Browne Photo: Cook Islands Democratic Party

She is seeking to deduct what she calls "tainted" votes from the total number, which could change the result in her favour.

Her petition was dismissed by the High Court and an appeal is pending.

Mr Hagai's resignation was a response to her appeal, she said.

"The reason for the resignation in my view, is to try and avoid the Court of Appeal making a decision on the seat being granted to me," Ms Brown said.

Mr Hagai told Cook Islands Radio his seat should be decided by the people and not by the courts.