In the fantasy world of a popular television series, a participant is voted out of the game by a Tribal Council. The vanquished is required to have his torch extinguished and must leave the Tribal Council immediately if not sooner. The tribe has spoken.
In the real world of the here and now, in the Niue General Election 2020, the Niue Tribe has spoken. The vanquished have extinguished their torches and have left the Tribal Council. The tribe has spoken, they have made their choice. In an Assembly comprising of twenty elected representatives, six sitting members will not be returning.
The most notable candidate to have lost his seat is the island’s second longest serving Premier, Sir Toke Talagi. In a remarkable career, the only knight of the realm had taken the island on a journey that, in the end, probably cost him his health. He has been ill for some time now. Those who have worked with Sir Toke and know his capabilities will no doubt be saddened at the manner of his departure from the political arena but the choice was his to make. His defeat at the polls clear the way for a new leader.
Another common roll member to lose her seat is Joan Viliamu. She served one term in cabinet in the Toke Talagi Administration when she first entered the Assembly in 2011. Her ability to survive for nine years on the highly competitive Common Roll (CR) should keep the political scholars occupied for a while.
The two new members on the CR are Richard Hipa and Sauni Togatule, both are retired senior public servants.
At the best of times, trying to predict the outcome of a Niue General Election is like grappling with an octopus. Just when you think you have it under control, another little tentacle wriggles its way free. No one, not even the pundits could have predicted that former Secretary of Government, Richard Hipa, will top the CR polls. But he did and with a good majority. If all goes well, expect him to play a significant role in the inner circle of the island’s decision makers.
Sauni Togatule took the second slot in the CR line-up. There was some expectation that Togatule had a chance of winning a seat, but that’s all it was, a chance. Well he kicked that prediction out of the park by polling the second highest votes.
All four remaining CR seats were taken by sitting members Crossley Tatui, Stanley Kalauni, Tauveve Jacobsen and Terry Coe, in that order. The two veteran politicians of Jacobsen and Coe have come in at the bottom of the pack which no doubt will lead to even more speculation. All four have been strong critics of the Talagi government.
There was some expectation that Billy Talagi – who decided not to contest the village seat of Avatele which he has occupied for over twenty years – could return to the Assembly with a seat on the CR. He came in at seventh place, close but not close enough. It has to be said that the support from his village was less than enthusiastic.
Former Wellington mayor and now local businessman Mark Blumsky polled tenth on the CR.
Of the village constituencies that went to the polls, Tamakutoga has a new member in Ricky Makani who defeated sitting member Andrew Funaki with a good majority.
Further along the coast in the village of Avatele, in a three-way contest, Poimamao Vakanofiti won the seat by a majority of six votes, making him the fourth person to occupy the seat since self-government.
The drama in the two Tafiti Lalo villages was to continue with their cousin at Tafiti Uta. In another three-way contest, the people of Hakupu gave the nod to Ritchie Mautama ahead to sitting member Michael Jackson and challenger Fapoi Akesi.
The voters in the village of Liku has returned their sitting member Pokotoa Sipeli with an overwhelming majority. The challenger Sionetasi Pulehetoa will have to wait for another time.
In the village of Lakepa sitting member Kupa Magatogia was unseated by John Tiakia. Magatogia took the seat from Tiaki in 2005.
Further north in the village of Mutalau, it was a case of déjà vu. In a repeat of the previous general election the two candidates of Maureen Melekitama and Makaseau Ioane returned equal votes causing a tie. If a recount does not resolve the tie, it will be decided by drawing one name from the hat.
The village constituency of Alofi Tokelau holds a special interest at this time; the sitting member Va’aiga Tukuitoga has a majority of just one vote ahead of challenger Tutuli Heka.
Makefu’s sitting member Tofua Puletama has retained his seat, as does the incumbent for Alofi Toga, Dalton Tagelagi.
Namukulu, Tuapa and Vaiea did not go the polls which means that their sitting members were returned unopposed.
The final results of GE 2020 is expected to be released by the Chief Electoral Officer on Tuesday.
If those events were not dramatic enough, the next chapter in forming a government will be even more interesting. Watch this space.