The Cook Islands Legislative Assembly was established on October 25, 1957 by the New Zealand Parliament. Under the Cook Islands Amendment (NZ) Act 1957 (Public Act No 103, Date of assent: 25 October 1957), the Legislative Council is reorganized by the New Zealand as the Legislative Assembly with 22 elected Members and 4 appointed Officials.
Fifteen of the Members were to be elected directly by secret ballot, and seven were to be elected by the Island Councils. The very first General Election by universal suffrage in the Cook Islands was scheduled for October 13, 1958 to elect 27 Members to the new Legislative Assembly.
The Members of Parliament are elected by secret ballot on a “first-past the post” universal suffrage system. In 1980-81, the Constitution was amended by redefining the constituencies, thus increasing the number of Members to 24.
This was refined in 1991 where another Constituency in Rarotonga was further divided into two to reflect a 25 Member Parliament. The status quo remained until 2003 when the Overseas Constituency that was created under the 1980-81 Constitution Amendment, was abolished.
GOVERNANCE CONTEXT OF PARLIAMENT
The Parliament of the Cook Islands is a key part of the country’s overall formal governance structure, the State. This section places Parliament in its constitutional context by identifying the different parts of the State and outlines Parliament’s functions.
Head of State and King's Representative
The Cook Islands is a self-governing parliamentary democracy, having the King of the United Kingdom as Head of State, represented by the King’s Representative (KR). The KR carries out his functions acting on the advice of the Executive Government.
House of Ariki
There is a House of Ariki to which Parliament may submit questions concerning the ‘welfare of the people’ and on which the House makes recommendations.
Each part of the State – legislature, executive government, and judiciary – works under the important principle of the separation of powers and operates within its own circumscribed area as laid down by the Constitution, the application of law and the norms of parliamentary democracy. The efficiency and effectiveness with which governance generally is conducted depends upon the satisfactory working of each and a mutual acceptance of the limitations and scope of operation of each part.