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PAPE'ETE, Tahiti (Oceania Flash, June 2) - Wallis and Futuna's representative in the French Senate, Robert Laufoaulu, has sent a message of support to French Polynesia's member of the French Upper House, Gaston Flosse, following the outcome of recent general elections on May 23.

The election results came as a surprise as Flosse's party, the Tahoreraa Huiraatira, which was tipped to retain its large majority in the 57-seat Assembly, can only rely on 28 seats, one short of a majority.

Flosse's major opponent, Oscar Temaru's pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira, now has 27 seats and two minor parties have last week announced they would support him to form French Polynesia's next government.

The two key seats holders who chose to support Temaru are Nicole Bouteau (a former minister in Flosse's governments) for the No Oe E Te Nunaa party and Philippe Schyle for the Fetia Api (pro-autonomy).

French Polynesia's incumbent President Gaston Flosse's office, on Wednesday sent a copy of Laufoaulu's letter date May 26, which expresses the Wallisian Senator's sentiment that the recent election results were "unfair" to Flosse.

"I have the feeling you are not always understood and that now you want to learn the lessons from this poll and rectify your policies, in particular on the methods used", the Senator is quoted as saying.

"During this period of Pentecost, I pray for the Lord to enlighten and guide you", he adds.

The French High Commission in Pape'ete has issued a message stressing in substance that it had the obligation to remain neutral on the elections' outcome.

This followed accusations from the new opposition caucus, which last week said recent declarations by French government minister Brigitte Girardin were "scandalous".

Flosse, on his part, at the weekend accused French government overseas television network RFO and its station in French Polynesia of "illegally and indecently supporting" his opponents.

Flosse told a party audience that the new coalition would be "incapable of governing the country".

On the regional front, New Zealand foreign affairs minister Phil Goff on Tuesday told Radio New Zealand International that he hoped the current transition period will be " managed without any violence and without excessive tensions that would be damaging to people and to the medium term outlook for French Polynesia."

Speaking at the weekend during a political rally, Flosse said the new coalition announcement around Temaru's Union pour la Démocratie (Union for Democracy) has effectively "opened a crisis".

But he also maintained he would fight to the very end to maintain himself in power.

Calling on new elected members to consider the "greater interest of French Polynesia", he said his party remained open to talks with any other party until election day.

He also said he could consider requesting the French State Council (France's top administrative tribunal) to declare the elections null and void, because of "irregularities" concerning the size of allot papers used by some parties on election day.

On Friday (Thursday Pape'ete time, GMT-10), the new Assembly will hold it inaugural meeting to elect a Speaker.

One week later, another meeting is to be convened to elect French Polynesia's President.

Both Flosse and Temaru have already indicated they would be candidates.

Meanwhile, local observers believe the coalition announced at the end of last week could change until next week and the intended balance of power shift again to one or the other side: each party only needs a very limited number of seats to gain majority.

June 4, 2004

Oceania Flash: E-mail/Courriel: padec@iname.com 

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