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Akaiti Puna will be vying for the seat held by her husband and former Cook Islands prime minister Henry Puna for over a decade, in the Manihiki by-election on 05 May.
Contesting under the banner of the governing Cook Islands Party (CIP), she is one of the three candidates who are confirmed for the much-anticipated by-election. The other two are Munokoa Maraeara of the Democratic Party and Tamaroatemu (Temu) Okotai, who is running as an Independent.
Last month Cook Islands News revealed Akaiti Puna as the leading candidate for the party.
CIP’s secretary general Nooroa Roi then could not confirm the party’s standing representative, “as the nomination of candidates from the island have yet to be received”.
Efforts to get comments from the party yesterday proved futile but a statement on their candidate from CIP leader and Prime Minister Mark Brown is expected “sometime this week”.
Chief electoral officer Taggy Tangimetua said 133 voters have been registered for the by election.
The number include about 10 electors residing overseas and some in Rarotonga.
“We are printing the ballot papers and in the coming weeks, we will start processing postal votes for those residing overseas. We need to send the postal votes quickly so we can have them back in time,” Tangimetua said.
Demos candidate Munokoa Maraeara, who flew back from New Zealand last week, narrowly lost last year’s mayoral race and is widely regarded by Democrats as the best choice to run in the by-election.
He was encouraged to take on the challenge by his wife, a leg amputee in Auckland where she is being fitted with a prosthetic limb.
“ …. she said for me to accept the offer of being the Demo candidate and go home, work hard and win the by-election. She believes in me and that’s the support I needed to be able to leave her in good hands and go back to Manihiki to do my best to win this race.”
Independent candidate Temu Okotai, traditionally a staunch Cook Islands Party supporter, earlier told Cook Islands newspaper he didn’t support the party candidate and therefore decided to run on his own.
“I can’t believe there is not anybody capable of standing in Manihiki,” said Okotai, adding “it’s time for a change”.
“I’m running for the Manihiki Party.”
Both Maraeara and Okotai are focusing on reviving the pearl industry as well as exploring other developments to secure extra income for the island.
Henry Puna held the Manihiki seat since the 2010 election in which his party won 16 of the 24 seats. On November 30, 2010 he was sworn in as the 11th Prime Minister of the Cook Islands. He stepped down from the role last year.
Puna announced his retirement as MP for Manihiki in an emotional farewell in Parliament last month. He is the first Cook Islander to take up the prestigious job of Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General and will assume the new regional role on 18 May.
SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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