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PAPE‘ETE, French Polynesia (March 29, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---French Polynesia's President Gaston Flosse has accused the French state of "protecting" pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru, the daily newspaper La Dépêche de Tahiti reports.

Flosse, who was addressing a political rally to congratulate those members of his Tahoeraa Huiraatira party who recently secured control of the French territory's municipalities, "including in the opposition strongholds," alleged Temaru "has used every possible means to prevent those not siding with his Tavini party from voting.

"And he got away with it. If we had done one tenth of what he did, elections would have been voided and we'd all be in court. But Oscar Temaru is untouchable. He can do anything. He is protected by the French state.

"We stand alone to struggle for autonomy without compromising with supporters of the brutal rupture with France.

Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira party supports maximum autonomy for French Polynesia while retaining links with France, whereas Temaru's Tavini party backs total independence for French Polynesia.

"Autonomy is decolonization without the risks of independence. We'll pursue discussions with the French state at the highest level in order to push for our status to evolve. This includes a constitutional amendment (that would provide for a special ‘overseas country’ status, instead of ‘overseas territory’) that was promised to us both by the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister," President Flosse said.

Following the municipal elections earlier this month (March 11 and 18), French Polynesia will go to the polls again on May 6 to elect a new Territorial Assembly (legislature).

This week saw the unofficial launching of what is certain to be a fierce electoral campaign from all parties in French Polynesia's political spectrum.

"Don't kid yourselves. There won't be any favors for us. All the other parties will be against us and they will be supported by the socialist government.

"They have already tried several times to prevent me from running in these elections on May 6. They have failed, but they will try again. But if we can stay united, on May 6, we'll win," the President said.

Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira currently holds a majority in the Territorial Assembly.

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