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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, May 31) - The victory in France of the "no" vote in the weekend’s European Union constitutional treaty referendum was an expression of "disapproval" of French President Jacques Chirac, according to French Polynesia’s government.

And instead of highlighting the victory of the "yes" vote in French Polynesia, a communiqué issued Sunday night by French Polynesia Vice President Jacqui Drollet spoke of "the massive abstention" by voters, who showed that "Europe is too far away geographically, but also daily, for (French) Polynesians."

The "no" victory in France, Drollet’s communiqué stated, has created "a political, economic, social and deep identity crisis in France. The political construction of Europe has broken down, but the European Union is not in danger and will continue to function on the basis of the former treaties."

But Tahiti’s government notes that the Association of Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT) remains unaffected, therefore the relations between government of President Oscar Temaru and Brussels remain the same, the Drollet communiqué stated.

French Polynesia was one of eight out of nine French overseas departments and territories to vote "yes" on the EU constitutional treaty referendum. The only exception was Réunion, an Indian Ocean department, where voters rejected the treaty with a 59 percent "no" vote vs. a 40 percent "yes" vote, according to statistics from the Internet website of the French Overseas Ministry.

But the end result was an overwhelming 55 percent "yes" vote vs. a 44 percent "no" vote among the nine overseas French possessions. French Polynesia’s "yes" vote totaled 72 percent of the votes cast, while the "no" vote accounted for 27 percent. The voter turnout was 27 percent.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, the "yes" vote won 78 percent of the votes in New Caledonia (34 percent voter turnout) and 89 percent of the votes in Wallis and Futuna (51 percent voter turnout), according to the ministry statistics.

"The government of French Polynesia hopes that the announced change will not call into question the normalization of relations between the State and" the territory, the Drollet communiqué stated, referring to the expected replacement of French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, whom Temaru met with during his recent official visit to France.

"Europe and the (European) Commission in Brussels have very little influence on our institutions, (and) the cooperation and financial assistance likely to come from Europe are not openly readable" for the people of French Polynesia, Drollet stated.

Meanwhile, there were other reactions across the political spectrum in Tahiti following the announcement Sunday that the "no" vote was the final victor in France despite the "yes" vote support from the French overseas possessions.

As late as noon Monday, President Temaru still had given no indication of whether he had voted and, if so, how he had voted. Although he said during his trip to Paris that he personally supported a "yes" vote, when he returned to Tahiti, his Union for Democracy (UPLD) majority coalition took no official position prior to the voting. Instead, the UPLD let voters decide for themselves whether to vote and how to vote.

Sunday night, Myron Mataoa, the official spokesman for UPLD, said, "Nearly 55 percent of the French voted ‘no.’ That would mean that even among the French they don’t have confidence in this treaty. They raised questions about the movement of Europeans" in France.

French Polynesia voted overwhelmingly "yes," Mataoa said, "Because it’s a question of the development of Polynesia, the development of exchanges with Europe."

Armelle Merceron, the spokesperson for opposition leader Gaston Flosse’s pro-France and pro-yes Tahoeraa Huiraatira party, said of the "no" victory in France that Tahiti could expect consequences, such as a sharp cutback in European construction. The overall results in France also show that those governing Tahiti do not support a strong Europe and "I don’t see how they could ask for bigger subsidies from Europe and France when they say ‘no’ to Europe," Ms. Merceron said when interviewed by RFO Télé-Polynésie.

Gwendoline Pania, the spokesperson for Nicole Bouteau’s pro-France, pro-yes No Oe e te Nunaa centrist political party, said Sunday that it is up to those politicians governing French Polynesia to provide more information on Europe in the future.

Among the rare politicians in Tahiti calling publicly for a ‘no’ vote in the EU referendum, Hiro Tefaarere, a member of Temaru’s UPLD majority coalition, said the election served as "a lesson in democracy." He added, "As a political leader, I am the only one to have called for a ‘no’ vote and I’m delighted that 11,000 people voted ‘no.’" He was referring to the results in Tahiti. Tefaarere said that 95 percent of the "yes" vote came from Flosse’s party.

Another campaigner for the "no" vote, Ronald Terorotua, a former French Polynesia Assembly member, said he was satisfied with the "very good result."

June 1, 2005



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