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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, June 3) - The French Polynesia Assembly today elected its first pro-independence President, Antony Géros, who defeated a surprise candidate of Gaston Flosse’s outgoing government by one vote.

The 47-year-old Géros won the Assembly presidency with 29 votes, a one vote victory over Emile Vernaudon, who was nominated by Flosse’s political party even though Vernaudon won a May 23 Assembly election seat as a member of an opposition coalition to Flosse.

The counting of the secret vote went down to the very last vote before it was determined that Géros had won. His victory was also a victory for the now apparent majority coalition formed by pro-independence party and coalition leader Oscar Temaru.

But there still remains an election of French Polynesia’s government president, due to be held on June 10 at the earliest and by June 18 at the very latest.

Incumbent President Flosse and Temaru have announced their candidacies.

Thursday’s Assembly president election was followed closely throughout Tahiti as the French State radio and television network, RFO Polynésie, and Flosse’s government-created television station, TNTV, broadcast the session live.

Géros is currently general secretary at the Faa’a City Hall, where Temaru has been major since 1983.

The remainder of Thursday’s Assembly session was devoted to filling a variety of posts, including members of a permanent commission, which meets when the Assembly is not in session.

Now that the Assembly president has been decided, the next big political showdown in the Assembly is scheduled for June 10, or at least by the legal limit of June 18. That is when the Assembly will vote, again by secret ballot, on who will be the next president of French Polynesia.

Both incumbent Flosse, who is looking for his fifth term in office, and challenger Temaru, who is seeking to lead Tahiti for the first time, have announced their candidacies.

But Temaru did not announce Géros’ candidacy for Assembly president in Faa’a, Tahiti’s most populated commune where the international airport is located. Instead, he traveled to another part of the island to the small Commune of Arue to announce that Géros was the unanimous choice of the Union for Democracy (UPD) coalition.

Philip Schyle, leader of the opposition autonomy party Fetia Api, is major of Arue. Fetia Api is one of the two minor parties who have joined forces with the UPD to form a majority coalition. The other party is No Oe e Te Nunaa, which is led by Nicole Bouteau, a former tourism and environment minister in Flosse’s government. The coalition’s 29th vote comes from Chantal Flores, leader of the Tapura Amui party in the Austral Islands.

Schyle has taken a different position about his party’s role in a future Temaru-led government than Ms. Bouteau. Schyle announced Wednesday that his party was close to signing an agreement calling for the Fetia Api to have a role in the next government. On Tuesday, Ms. Bouteau announced that she would support Temaru’s French Polynesia presidential candidacy without becoming a member of his party or his coalition group. That would leave her as an independent member of the Assembly. In effect, she appeared to rule out any possibility of her becoming a candidate for government minister in a UPD coalition government.

While declining to say what role he and his party might play in a Temaru-led government, Schyle did say Wednesday that President Flosse had offered him the post of Assembly president, four or five government ministerial posts for Fetia Api members and a joint program. Schyle said none of Flosse’s proposals interested him and said he told Flosse he should recognize that the May 23 election was a sanction against him and withdraw.

Temaru announced Wednesday that if Géros is elected Assembly president Thursday, he must resign as secretary general at the Faa’a City Hall.

June 4, 2004

Tahitipresse: www.tahitipresse.pf

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