JUNE 3 TAHITI VOTE TO DETERMINE PRESIDENCY

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, May 29) - With the support of a two-day-old majority coalition, independence party leader Oscar Temaru confirmed on television Friday night that he will be a candidate for French Polynesia’s presidency on June 10.

He joins incumbent President Gaston Flosse, who also confirmed on television Thursday night that he would be seeking his fifth term as head of the local government, even though he still lacks one vote for an absolute or coalition majority in the 57-seat French Polynesia Assembly.

However, Temaru, who is also the leader of the Union for Democracy (UPD) coalition, did not announce Friday who would be the group’s candidate for Assembly president.

"This election will be held next Thursday" (June 3), Temaru said during an interview on RFO’s Télé Polynésie, the French State owned and operated television and radio network in French Polynesia. "We will communicate our candidate before that date."

The June 3 vote for Assembly president will confirm whether the UPD definitely has a majority coalition of 29 seats. In the May 23 French Polynesia Assembly election, Flosse’s Tahoeraa Huiraatira party won the most votes and the most seats—28 out of a possible 57 seats—but ended up one seat short of an absolute majority. Temaru’s coalition won 26 seats and picked up one seat from a supporter in the Austral Islands, leaving the coalition two seats short of a majority.

Temaru, leader of Tahiti’s Tavini Huiraatira independence party since it’s founding in 1987, confirmed that he had set aside his political ideologies in order to broaden UPD’s appeal to two autonomist party leaders who joined his coalition ranks on Thursday. They both have one seat in the Assembly.

"We felt this desire for change among the population and, thus, tried to put aside our political disagreements," Temaru said. "It’s a question today of finding men and women qualified to run this country," he said, explaining that the people’s vote for his coalition was proof of his independence party’s "maturity".

The coalition’s latest support came from Philippe Schyle, leader of Fetia Api (New Star), a former opposition autonomy party during Flosse’s regime, and Nicole Bouteau, a former tourism minister under Flosse until two years ago and now the leader of No Oe e Te Nunaa (This Country Is Yours), also a former opposition autonomy party.

While nightly meetings continue between former opposition party members and Flosse, Temaru told the television audience throughout French Polynesia Friday night that none of them "were interested in (government) positions being offered".

And Temaru added, "We’re defining a joint program to run the country. Our job is not just one of distributing ministries."

However, Temaru also confirmed there were some differences of opinion among coalition members, but said, "We all agree that a (government) financial audit must be done."

Among the differences is whether to increase the minimum monthly wage from the present 110,000 French Pacific francs (about US$1,158/€922) to 150,000 F CFP (about US$1,579/€1,257). Although the UPD called for such an increase throughout the campaigning for the May 23 French Polynesia Assembly election, the two other parties have not endorsed such a move.

However, Temaru told the television audience that the monthly wage would be increased in increments rather than all at once.

Temaru also said that if he becomes president he would set up a personal income tax system, something most of Tahiti’s politicians have resisted for several years due to its unpopularity among voters and big campaign contributors. Such an income tax would be similar to what exists in New Caledonia, another French overseas possession. "We’re holding talks on the subject," he said.

Temaru also had a message Friday night for Flosse, who still is president of French Polynesia. "I’m asking Gaston Flosse and the two (French National Assembly) deputies of our country to organize a trip together to Paris to meet with (French President) Jacques Chirac and the overseas minister, Brigitte Girardin, to tell the French State to play the game.

"As for the declarations Tuesday by Brigitte Girardin, I attribute that to emotion," Temaru said. He was referring to Mrs. Girardin’s comments when she told French Socialists in the National Assembly not to rejoice too soon over the gains of the opposition coalition in the May 23 election in Tahiti. She told a Socialist member during a debate that the electoral process was far from over.

June 2, 2004

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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