Temaru elected president of French Polynesia

4th March 2005, Comments 0 comments

PAPEETE, March 3 (AFP) - Independence supporter Oscar Temaru was Thursday elected president of French Polynesia, the third change of leadership the South Pacific territory has undergone in less than a year.

PAPEETE, March 3 (AFP) - Independence supporter Oscar Temaru was Thursday elected president of French Polynesia, the third change of leadership the South Pacific territory has undergone in less than a year.

Temaru, who leads the Union for Democracy (UPLD), won 29 of the assembly's 57 votes compared to 26 for his rival Gaston Tong Sang, the candidate of former leader Gaston Flosse's Tahoerra Huiraatira party.

The long-serving Flosse, a close friend and supporter of French President Jacques Chirac, was ousted after losing a no-confidence vote last month in the latest twist of a protracted political crisis that has gripped the territory.

Temaru's victory was greeted with raucous celebrations by hundreds of his supporters gathered outside Polynesia's parliament building, who chanted the UPLD campaign slogan "Taui Roa (big change)" repeatedly.

The veteran pro-independence campaigner was visibly moved by the scenes, embracing supporters and opponents alike and vigorously shaking the hand of his old rival Flosse.

Speaking after the win, Temaru voiced hope that his victory would draw a line under the long-running saga, stressing independence would not be considered unless there was clear public support for a split from France.

"I believe in the values of democracy and alternation. We are one people who must now unite for the common good," Temaru said.

"Independence is not on the agenda and will only be possible if the economic situation allows it and the population wishes it," he added.

Last month's no-confidence vote was called after the Temaru-led UPLD swept to victory in by-elections in the Polynesian islands of Tahiti and Moorea.

The by-elections were called after France's state council - the highest administrative court - last year annulled the results of May 2004 elections in the two islands, citing irregularities in some polling stations.

The no-confidence vote was the second in five months after one in October last year which ousted Temaru after a turbulent 15 weeks in power.

Temaru's ousting last year outraged supporters across French Polynesia and sparked unprecedented street protests by crowds of about 25,000.

The charismatic Temaru was a leading critic of France's nuclear testing in French Polynesia, which ended in 1996.

Lying some 17,000 kilometres (10,500 miles) from France, Polynesia consists of five archipelagos and 118 islands spread over an area the size of Europe.

It was annexed by France in 1880 and lives on tourism, fishing and handouts from Paris.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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