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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Feb. 14) – Oscar Temaru's six-party coalition won a net popular vote victory in Sunday's French Polynesia Assembly by-election in the Windward islands, winning nearly 47 percent of the vote.

Arch-rival and current French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse won 40 percent of the vote, while a new alliance won 10.6 percent.

But while the election, for 37 seats in the French Polynesia Assembly, produced a voter turnout of nearly 80 percent, it does not appear to have gotten Tahiti out of the political crisis that has existed since the May 23 general elections for all 57 seats.

There appears to be an even split, or a political tie, between Tahiti's two main political groups – the Union for Democracy (UPLD) coalition led by pro-independence party leader Temaru and the pro-France, pro-autonomy Tahoeraa huiraatira party led by French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse.

Thanks to a controversial 13-seat bonus that went to Temaru's coalition, both political sides appear to have 27 seats in the Assembly, or two short of an absolute majority.

The three remaining seats in the Assembly appear to be controlled by the pro-autonomy Alliance for a New Democracy (AND) formed by Nicole Bouteau and Philip Schyle.

However, there was doubt Sunday night after the 27-27-3 seat results were announced as to whether one of the AND seats, that of Patricia Jennings from the Leeward islands, is with the Bouteau-Schyle AND or Temaru's UPLD. There were 20 seats not involved in Sunday's election. They represent the Marquesas Islands, the Leeward islands, the Austral islands and the Tuamotu-Gambier Archipelago.

But the most dramatic aspects of the election results were three-fold: First, the larger UPLD coalition won a bigger share of the popular vote than it did last May 23.

Second, the UPLD won the popular votes in the City of Papeete, the island of Moorea, the tiny island of Maiao next to Moorea, and three communes on the island of Tahiti, all of which Flosse's party won on May 23.

Finally, the Bouteau-Schyle ticket appears to have lost votes as an alliance from the results each earned as leaders of single parties in the May 23 election.

If the 27-27-3 seat split continues in the French Polynesia Assembly, the big question focuses on who, if anyone, will change sides. Although Ms Bouteau and Schyle helped Temaru form a one-vote majority coalition of 29 seats in the Assembly following the May 23 general elections, both have said they will not side either with Temaru of Flosse, regardless of Sunday's election results.

Interim Assembly president Hiro Tefaarere insisted Sunday night that Ms Jennings is part of the UPLD coalition. He is also from the Leeward islands and belongs to the UPLD.

Temaru's coalition won 41,785 votes in Sunday's by-election, representing 46.96 percent of the vote. Flosse's party won 35,577 votes, or 39.99 percent of the vote. The Bouteau-Schyle coalition won 9.395 votes, or 10.56 percent of the vote.

February 15, 2005

Tahitipresse: http://www.tahitipresse.pf/index.cfm?lang=2

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