TEMARU REGAINS FRENCH POLYNESIA PRESIDENCY

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Mar. 3) – For the second time in less than a year, pro-independence party leader Oscar Temaru was elected French Polynesia president Thursday by a three-vote margin over challenger Gaston Tong Sang, the mayor of Bora Bora.

The 57-member French Polynesia Assembly voted 29-26 in favor of Temaru. There were two blank ballots. That gives Temaru’s six-party Union for Democracy (UPLD) coalition a one-vote majority coalition over the pro-autonomy Tahoeraa Huiraatira party, which chose Tong Sang as its candidate over former President Gaston Flosse.

Temaru’s election climaxed a political comeback that began with a Paris-court-ordered Feb. 13 by-election for the Assembly’s 37 Windward Islands seats. His UPLD coalition list of candidates outpolled Flosse’s list by slightly more than 6,000 votes.

Temaru’s victory Thursday gives him a second chance to complete what he and his coalition began last June. That Temaru government lasted only four months, when it was toppled last October in a no confidence vote instigated by Flosse. But Flosse’s government also only lasted about four months, when it was toppled on Feb. 18 in a no confidence vote instigated by Temaru.

Before Thursday’s Assembly vote, Temaru and Tong Sang each outlined what their programs would be if elected.

Temaru once again emphasized: "independence is not on the agenda. This question can only be debated if the population wishes to."

He also emphasized terms of a political reconciliation, a united approach to governing French Polynesia, calling for an end to a statutory one-upmanship. Temaru promised that reunification would be his government’s approach.

But in view of French Polynesia’s current economic situation, Temaru said voters "must not return to the ballot boxes before four years", or 2009, when his presidential term expires.

In outlining his proposed economic program, Temaru called for road investments for the Papeete urban area and the development of tourism, with the goal of 300,000 tourists for 2007 and 500,000 for 2010. He also proposed enlarging the Tahiti-Faa’a International Airport and building an international airport in the Marquesas Islands, French Polynesia’s northernmost archipelago that is the closest to Hawaii.

Tong Sang also proposed a government of appeasement and reconciliation, while indicating that a "confrontation of ideas must continue". He paid tribute to the work carried out over the past nearly 20 years by Tahoeraa Huiraatira leader Flosse.

Tong Sang reiterated his party’s proposal to form a government of unity acting in the general interest of the people. That proposal was aimed at the Assembly’s two centrist party members, Nicole Bouteau and Philip Schyle. Judging from the two blank ballots cast Thursday, both lived up to their promise to remain neutral in the presidential election

March 4, 2005

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

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