17 Oct 2004

Rallies across French Polynesia for fresh general elections

7:32 pm on 17 October 2004

Marches have been held across French Polynesia in support of a call for fresh general elections.

In the biggest rally ever in Papeete, an estimated 20,000 people gathered in the square outside the territorial assembly in protest at France's refusal to dissolve the assembly after last week's ousting of the Oscar Temaru-led coalition.

Peaceful rallies were also held in the Marquesas, the Austral islands and the Tuamotus in an unprecedented show of support for Mr Temaru's call to dissolve the assembly after France twice rejected the call.

Socialist MPs from France joined the march in Tahiti, accusing President Jacques Chirac of a playing a role in the ousting of the Temaru government.

The 15-week old Temaru government collapsed a week ago when one of its MPs sided with the opposition led by veteran politician Gaston Flosse to approve one of two motions of no confidence.

The motion is at the centre of a legal dispute because only six and not, as required by law, at least 12 MPs had signed it.

The past week's attempts to set a date for the assembly to choose a new president have led to an impasse because the assembly's third vice president, with the backing of the French state, set October the 19th as the election date after the assembly president had closed the assembly meeting.

The assembly president proposed October the 25th for the vote.

Mr Flosse has said in a television interview that he wants to be given another chance, vowing to continue the audits into the last five years of his administration which were started by Mr Temaru's government after allegations of misuse of public funds.

Three candidates are standing: Oscar Temaru, Gaston Flosse and John Arapari, a canoe builder from Moorea.

Meanwhile, the Greens in French Polynesia have called for the sacking of the French high commissioner for allegedly failing to be impartial in the political stand-off of the past week.

And the party says it wants a French parliamentary inquiry into last week's no confidence vote in Tahiti, alleging it was the result of corrupt practices.