23 Apr 2013

Stunning electoral comback of Tahiti's Flosse

3:51 pm on 23 April 2013

It is likely that the courts in France will shape politics in French Polynesia over the next year as voters are keen to return Gaston Flosse to power despite him getting a raft of corruption sentences.

His Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party was the clear winner of the first round of the territorial election, suggesting that after the run-off vote on May the 5th, he will - at the age of 81 - return to the top post.

His tenure, however, may be at the mercy of the highest court of appeal.

Walter Zweifel explains.

Gaston Flosse pulled off his biggest electoral success since the turn of the century by dominating the first round of voting across the territory.

If he also wins the second round, he may be tripped up by a conviction two months ago in Tahiti's court of appeal for running an illicitly funded system to advance the policies of his Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party dating back to the 1990s.

He was deprived of his civic rights for three years, but his lawyers have taken the case to France's top court which is expected to rule on the appeal this year.

The thrust of his election campaign was to point at the tenure of Oscar Temaru, under whose watch the territory's economy continued a dramatic decline.

The publisher of the Tahiti Pacifique monthly, Alex du Prel, says the Temaru team struggled with the administrative challenges to the frustration of Paris.

"These modern complicated state systems now with all the rules and regulations. With Mr Temaru, they were amateurs and not only that. They were lazy amateurs."

The Union For Democracy has stayed quiet in the polls' aftermath as has the A Tia Porinetia, which is one of the two challengers making it to the run-off.

Teiva Manutahi's Porinetia Ora has cleared five percent and can ally itself with any of the surviving lists.

Alex du Prel says Mr Flosse's push succeeded against both Mr Temaru and the small parties vying for the same votes.

Mr Flosse has explained that 'if you want to get rid of Oscar, you don't spread your votes out on al these little parties.

Emerging as a big winner, the Tahoeraa's Edouard Fritch has told local television, there will be no deals.

Among the losing small parties, there is disenchantment that a renewal of the political class has failed.

Patrice Jamet campaigned for a higher moral standard and has told local radio that he cannot understand how people could vote for corrupt politicians that caused the crisis.

Now they don't want any morals - our country will fall on its knees and crumble.

Teiva Manutahi is among four party leaders challenging the legality of the election, saying the ballot paper of the Tahoeraa had a slogan on it which is nor permitted.

He has told local radio that if the local court won't rule on this quickly, he'll be off to Paris.

We'll go straight to the constitutional court in Paris to annul the election which will then take three months to reorganise.

The success of any such challenge is hard to gauge but French Polynesia has a history of extraordinary twists.

In 2004, a partial election re-run was ordered after the courts in Paris agreed that the blue curtains in a polling booth disadvantaged the Tahoeraa.