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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 31) – Political campaigning picked up momentum at the end of last week and over the weekend on Tahiti and Moorea with three weeks left before the Feb. 13 by-elections for 37 Windward Islands seats in the French Polynesia Assembly.

This has turned into a motorized campaign in addition to the traditional nightly meetings, political poster displays and the handing out of political leaflets at shopping centers. Cars, trucks, sports utility vehicles and four-wheel-drive vehicles, all with political flags waving, have become a big part of the current campaigning by the two big political groups—the pro-autonomy supporters led by incumbent French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse’s Tahoeraa Huiraatira party and the Union for Democracy (UPLD) seven-party coalition led by pro-independence party leader Oscar Temaru.

While between 2,000 and 3,000 women who belong to or support Flosse’s party met in the Tahiti Commune of Pirae, some 500 motor vehicles led by Emile Vernier paraded along the roads in support of "a no to independence". At the same time, the two leaders of a pro-autonomy Alliance for a New Democracy (ADN) coalition- -Nicole Bouteau and Philip Schyle—attended meetings of young people all around the island of Tahiti.

There were also lots of motor vehicles on the road Saturday with passengers waving the blue and white flags of Temaru’s independence party.

Last week, Temaru’s coalition received support from Paris when French leftist politicians and associations ranging from the Socialist party to the Revolutionary Communist League, announced their support for Temaru and denounced Flosse’s "clientelism", or political patronage, system, Agence France-Presse reported from the French capital. Flosse, Tahiti’s representative in the French Senate, is a member of the French right political party UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) of French President Jacques Chirac.

Socialist Deputy Christian Paul condemned "the links between the Chirac State in Paris and the Flosse system. He denounced the existence of "hundreds of fictitious jobs" in Tahiti, accusing Tahiti of practicing on an "industrial scale" what "the system of the Paris City Hall" under former UMP Mayor Jean Tibéri practiced "on an artisan scale". Greens Sen. Dominique Voynet deplored "the denial of democracy" in French Polynesia.

Meanwhile in Tahiti, Vernier, a member of the French Polynesia Economic, Social and Cultural Council as leader of one of Tahiti’s major trade unions, has become a specialist in organizing political motorcades. His first such effort occurred in early January with some 50 motor vehicles making a trip around the island of Tahiti using the theme of "no future for Polynesia without France".

Two weeks later, Vernier led scores of motor vehicles around Tahiti’s sister island of Moorea on an anti-independence political demonstration.

His latest motorcade left downtown Papeete Saturday morning with some 500 vehicles, growing in number in each district until the demonstration reached Taravao at the junction of the main island with Tahiti’s peninsula.

While the motorcade was going on, some 2,000 to 3,000 women members of Flosse’s party met in the gardens of the Pirae Town Hall. Flosse joined them. Chantal Gallenon, who is on Flosse’s candidate list for the Feb. 13 elections, said, "The objective was to bring together a maximum of women who are not for independence. I had the happy surprise of noting that many of them do not belong to (Flosse’s) Tahoeraa (Huiraatira party), but had joined us all the same." Singing and debating lasted all morning.

Meanwhile, Ms. Bouteau and her Alliance for a New Democracy (AND) co-leader Schyle decided to tour the island of Tahiti to present their political program. They were divided into two groups, each headed around the island in a different direction. "We stopped mainly in places where there were young people," Ms. Bouteau said. "We began with a welfare housing development in Papeete where we saw many young people who are very idle because there is no structure enabling them to participate in any form of spare time activity or sports."

Ms. Bouteau noted that throughout her tour of the island, political flags were flying everywhere—along the road, from motor vehicles and from houses. They were mainly blue and white for Temaru’s party and orange for Flosse’s party, she said.

February 1, 2005


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