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Cook Islands Party leader not surprised by referendum results
12:43 pm GMT+12, 30/11/2010, Cook Islands
Cook Islands Party (CIP) leader and Prime Minister elect Henry Puna says he’s not surprised that the referendum failed to secure enough support for reducing the number of seats in parliament.

“I’m not surprised by the result at all. But its not so much about what people actually want -- I think its more a reflection of how much information there was on the referendum,” said Mr  Puna.

A total of 59.2 percent of voters who took part in the non-binding referendum agreed that parliament should have less than 24 seats. Even for a binding referendum, at least two-thirds of voters must support suggested changes for parliament to be forced to act.

Mr Puna said the referendum result may have been different if there had been more awareness on it.

 “If anything, it says that future referendums must be handled properly. My complaint all along was that the outer islands were not aware of what was going on. On my island of Manihiki even, the people had no idea that there was a referendum being held in conjunction with the election – at least until I raised the issue at the only public meeting I had prior to the election.”

Mr Puna believes that any national issue such as political reform must be dealt with on a national basis.

“That means a full discussion with all people – not just in Rarotonga. I think that was the mistake made with this referendum.”

Mr Puna is still interested to see how the outer islands responded to the referendum as the party suspects Rarotonga’s influence on the referendum would be much stronger.

CI News asked Mr Puna if the CIP government would pursue political reform.

“I feel that the push for political reform came about from the failures of past administrations and that made people start to question the value of politicians and the political system. Allow us to show our people that there is value in it.”

The CIP did not openly support the Democratic Party’s referendum or political reform during the election campaign.

Mr Puna said the new government’s main priority is growing the economy, but they are not totally averse to taking on board the call for political reform at some point

Voter turnout this election was about 78 percent – much lower than in the previous three elections.

The political parties have yet to speculate on the low voter turnout.

Although more people appear to have voted this election – 8418 cast a vote – over 10,500 people were eligible to vote.

The voter turnout at the last three elections was: 2006 – 86.7 percent, 2004 – 85.7 percent and 1999 – 92.6 percent.

It’s clear there were some voters that didn’t want to take part in the referendum as well with around 7.4 percent or 623 referendum votes being declared invalid – most of them had not indicated either a yes or no response to the question. A total of 59.2 percent of those that voted – 4983 voters – indicated that they wanted fewer MPs in parliament.

The current parliament has 24 MPs – 16 of them have been won this election by the Cook Islands Party which looks set to govern for the next four years

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS

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