Temaru triumphs in French Polynesia elections

14th February 2005, Comments 0 comments

PAPEETE, Feb 13 (AFP) - The pro-independence party of Oscar Temaru swept to victory in initial by-elections in the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti and Moorea that residents hope will end a 10-month political crisis, officials said Sunday.

PAPEETE, Feb 13 (AFP) - The pro-independence party of Oscar Temaru swept to victory in initial by-elections in the French Polynesian islands of Tahiti and Moorea that residents hope will end a 10-month political crisis, officials said Sunday.

The vote was 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 islands send 37 members to the 57-seat territorial assembly. New elections will be held throughout the sprawling Pacific territory.

Temaru's Union for Democracy (UPLD) took 46.94 percent of the vote to secure 25 seats in the assembly while pro-France President Gaston Flosse's Tahoerra Huiraatira won 40 percent for 10 seats, the High Commission of the Republic said here.

Nicole Bouteau's Alliance for a New Democracy (ADN) took 10.56 percent of the vote to secure two seats.

None of the other candidates reached the threshold of three percent of the vote necessary to win a seat.

The 112,000 voters in Tahiti and Moorea cast their ballots Sunday for 37 representatives according to a list system whereby the winner also takes a majority premium of 33 percent of the seats.

Of the 20 other seats in the assembly, which represent the five other districts, 17 are held by Flosse's party, two by Temaru's camp and one by a supporter of Bouteau.

With the UPLD and Tahoeraa now holding 27 seats each, the ADN now holds the position of arbitrator on the constitution of an eventual governing alliance.

During the campaign, Bouteau however defined her position as "neither Oscar, nor Gaston".

"I am in a hurry to vote. I've had enough of this crisis - it is an unhealthy climate," said 55-year-old Tehare at a voting booth in Papeete.

Temaru was elected the first pro-independence president of French Polynesia in May 2004, ousting the veteran Flosse, but was defeated in a subsequent vote of no confidence.

Flosse, 73, a longstanding ally of President Jacques Chirac, has governed French Polynesia for 16 of the past 20 years and has established a well-honed political fiefdom.

Supporters of Temaru and France's opposition Socialists accuse him of being a corrupt Chirac stooge.

The 60-year-old Temaru is mayor of Faaa, the biggest city in French Polynesia.

In a televised declaration, the visibly moved independence leader thanked voters and the parliamentary delegations who supported his campaign.

The announcement of Temaru's victory was greeted with victory cries by supporters and some scuffles were reported in the Flosse stronghold of Pirae.

Security forces had been put on high alert ahead of Sunday's vote amid reports of clashes between Flosse supporters and pro-independence activists.

Both sides agreed last November that new elections should be held throughout the territory, but that the by-elections on Tahiti and Moorea should be held first.

Chirac's government is eager to find a solution to the crisis, which risks spinning into strikes that would harm the territory's already highly dependent economy.

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. Annexed by France in 1880, the territory lives on tourism, fishing and handouts from Paris.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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