Open rift in ruling party in French Polynesia

2:27 pm on 20 March 2015
Edouard Fritch and Gaston Flosse in 2013

Edouard Fritch and Gaston Flosse in 2013 Photo: RNZI Walter Zweifel

Divisions within French Polynesia's ruling party have deepened, with rival factions nominating different candidates for the May election of the territory's two members of the French Senate.

The president, Edouard Fritch, has backed Lana Tetuanui and Nuihau Laurey as additional candidates.

This is in defiance of a decision by the Tahoeraa Huiraatira, which is led by Gaston Flosse, to back Teura Iriti and Vincent Dubois.

The latter two were elected last year but two months ago, the French constitutional court annulled their election, saying a march by hundreds of Tahoeraa supporters to the polling station on election day amounted to undue pressure on the electoral college.

Flosse, who lost office last year because of a corruption conviction, has sharply criticised Mr Fritch, accusing him of abusing visits by high-profile French leaders to lobby mayors.

The election to the Senate is done by an electoral college made up of among others assembly members and mayors.