6 Sep 2005

Stand-off worsens over Makemo mayor in French Polynesia

3:45 pm on 6 September 2005

The French high commission in Papeete has proposed holding fresh elections for a mayor of the atoll of Makemo on another island.

This comes amid a dispute between the mayor, Tuhiva Mairoto, and the French government over last month's decree by the prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, to remove him for alleged mismanagement.

Mr Mairoto has challenged the legality of the French action in a Papeete court and his supporters have twice thwarted attempts to hold a mayoral election on Makemo.

He claims that the French administration has committed procedural errors in its attempts to dislodge him.

Mr Mairoto has also questioned Mr de Villepin's authority, saying the French prime minister was never elected to any office.

The stand-off comes amid moves by the territory's president, Oscar Temaru, to back a bid by an opposition MP from another island, Michel Yip, to get the Makemo mayoralty.

Despite the move against Mr Mairoto, the French high commission's website keeps him listed as mayor of Makemo.