18 Oct 2004

Huge support in French Polynesia for marches demanding fresh elections

8:18 am on 18 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.

A vote for a new President is due to be held later this month.

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