A Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Electoral Observer Mission (EOM) comprising Senior Officials from the Governments of Fiji and the Solomon Islands, supported by staff of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) arrived into Rarotonga earlier this week to observe the Cook Islands National Parliamentary Elections scheduled for 1 August 2022.
The EOM was established by PIF Leaders in 2000 under the Biketawa Declaration https://www.forumsec.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/BIKETAWA-Declaration.pdf The “Biketawa”
was a high-level response by PIF Leaders to political instability within the region in the early 2000s and put forward a set of guiding principles and actions for Forum members to support good governance and democracy in general elections. The Cook Islands has consistently invited the PIF EOM to scrutinize its general elections and an invitation was issued by Prime Minister Mark Brown to the PIF during his visit to Fiji in June for an EOM.
Head of delegation for the PIF EOM to the Cook Islands is Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Fiji Mr Esala Nayasi, accompanied by Solomon Islands High Commissioner to New Zealand, His Excellency Mr. Eliam Tangirongo and supported by PIFS Officials including PIFS Deputy Secretary General Dr. Filoman Manoni.
“At the heart of Biketawa is the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries. That being said, the PIF EOM exercise offers an opportunity for independent observation of the Cook Islands electoral process – from registration, to voting, polling and counting by the PIF EOM,” said Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI).
The Cook Islands via MFAI have long championed good governance policies, protocols and procedures in our regional multilateral institutions. With COVID-19 Economic Recovery continuing to be the focus of national government efforts and heightened geopolitical interest in the Pacific, regional initiatives such as the PIF EOM afford the Cook Islands and the region valuable independent review analysis and sharing of electoral experiences. “As a Small Island State (SIS), it is crucial the Cook Islands ensure its good governance and democracy evolution keeps pace with the development needs of the Cook Islands and abreast of international good practice as relate to democracy and good governance.”
The Observer team have met with senior officials from Police, the Electoral Office, Chamber of Commerce, Civil Society representatives and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM). Meetings today were scheduled with Leaders of the Cook Islands Party, Democratic Party, United Party and the Progressive Party. The PIF EOM delegation will split on Monday with one group heading to Aitutaki to observe electoral processes in the Pa Enua, including the opening of polls, polling, closing and the counting of votes while one will remain in Rarotonga to observe Rarotonga polling booths.
“Amongst the considerations of government since the last general election, and referenced in the 2018 PIF EOM post mission report, was a standalone electoral office and utilization of online platforms for registration and polling purposes,” said Secretary Herrmann. “We therefore look forward to this PIF EOM completion report which will be provided to our Government post the mission.”
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