28 May 2004

French Polynesia's opposition poised to take power

1:14 pm on 28 May 2004

Opposition parties in French Polynesia have signed a formal agreement to form a government following an election upset early this week.

Elections delivered a surprise defeat to the ruling Tahoeraa Huiraatira party of Gaston Flosse, which fell one seat short of a majority to continue its 20 year rule.

The main opposition party, the Tavini Huiraatira , led by Oscar Temaru, emerged two seats short of a majority, making two other opposition MPs -- Nicole Bouteau and Philip Schyle -- the kingmakers.

A leading local journalist, Alex du Prel, says the deal signed a short while ago will give the new coalition the numbers to unseat the Flosse administration.

"Mr Temaru, Madame Nicole Bouteau and Mr Philip Schyle, held a press conference saying that they had singed a convention that they would form a new government, so it is 29 councilmen, which is a total majority, the absolute majority."

Mr du Prel says that Mr Flosse has not conceded the election.

But he says Mr Temaru has visited the French High Commissioner in Papeete to ask that the French Government respect the wishes of voters and not intervene in the outcome.

Mr Temaru is widely seen as the front-runner to become president.

The new president will be decided by secret ballot at Assembly elections in two weeks' time.

Mr du Prel says that in the meantime, Mr Temaru is calling for unity among all parties, including Tahoeraa, to reduce corruption and the buying of support in the French territory.