6 May 2013

Festive atmosphere for second round voting in French Polynesia

7:22 pm on 6 May 2013

There was a festive atmosphere in French Polynesia as people there went to the polls in the run-off election to choose a new 57-member territorial assembly.

Our reporter in the capital Walter Zweifel was following the voting and told Sally Round about it.

ZWEIFEL: The atmosphere here is very festive. It is something akin to a country fair or a soccer final with supporters of the different parties dressed up in the different colours lining the street outside the polling booth. There's music, food stalls. It's a family event, it's an all-day event for a lot of people, so it is different to what we know in other countries. At the same time, I have to say that in the lead-up to the election it was quieter than other years. There seemed to be less interest, there were fewer banners and so on around the streets, compared with what I saw nine years ago and five years ago. But today it's a brilliant day. It rained briefly in the morning, but it's a festival, party mood.

ROUND: Are there indications at these stage of how high the voter turn-out is?

ZWEIFEL: Well, reports over the radio at midday suggested that in most places the turn-out is higher than it was two weeks ago. Two weeks ago it was rather low, it was just under 70%, which means that the number of extensions was higher than the score any other party had. And this, of course, has given hopes to all parties that they can draw in those people who stayed at home last time and up the numbers to make it through. Important to know is that under the new electoral system, the party that wins most votes will get an absolute majority. That is because the electoral system gives 19 out of the 57 seats to the winning list, in addition to whatever they gain in proportion of the vote.

ROUND: So campaigning, obviously, was meant to have stopped before this day of polling, but you came across someone defying that rule?

ZWEIFEL: Yeah, it was quite surprising. Around about 7:00 last night, there was music and lots of young people there and a huge display of the UPLD, that is the Union For Democracy. And I just stopped here and walked along and then they announced that the president was here. He went on stage and exhorted to the young people they should go and vote, their vote would count. He also said that a lot was at stake and they had done everything they could for their children and their children's children. So this was definitely a political appeal to go and vote and he said it's going to happen in a few hours. According to the rules in place here, there should be no public campaigning anymore by politicians on the day before the election. Having said that, the day before the election is used by supporters to go for a huge, huge drive around the island of Tahiti - that's a little more than 100km - and supporters, they form convoys of dozens or sometimes hundreds of cars and just drive around the island honking and waving flags.

ROUND: Our reporter in Papeete, Walter Zweifel.