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June 24, 2017

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Cook Islands prime minister wins disputed second term

AVARUA, Cook Islands--Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has won a second term in the small Pacific nation, although the main opposition party said Wednesday it planned to challenge the results.

Preliminary returns in the July 9 poll showed Puna in danger of losing his own seat but a late surge in support from postal ballots delivered victory to his Cook Islands Party (CIP).

Final results from the Chief Electoral Office gave Puna's CIP a narrow majority of 13 seats in the 25-seat parliament, with the prime minister retaining his Manihiki electorate.

The opposition Democratic Party secured eight seats, with the recently formed One Cook Islands Party winning two seats.

A tie was recorded in one electorate and will be subject to a recount.

Democratic Party leader Wilkie Rasmussen lost his electorate but said he would challenge the result, along with the outcome of several other seats, alleging discrepancies in the voting process.

"The Democratic Party and I are determined that we will turn these final results around, and we are confident with the information we have that our petitions will be successful," he told AFP.

The Cooks, a nation of about 14,000 people, has close ties to New Zealand and relies heavily on tourism and fisheries.

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