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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 13) – Emile Vernaudon followed Tuesday's resignation from the Temaru government by announcing Wednesday he plans to seek the presidency of Tahiti after a new speaker is chosen on Thursday for the French Polynesia Assembly.

[PIR editor’s note: Philip Schyle, a last-minute pro-autonomy party leader candidate, was elected speaker of the French Polynesia Assembly Thursday with an absolute majority vote of 29-28, defeating Temaru government incumbent Speaker Antony Géros. See story in today’s PIR. ]

Vernaudon made his announcement during a meeting of his pro-autonomy, pro-France political party, explaining his political situation and his uniting with other pro-autonomy parties.

He obviously had nothing more to hide, telling his followers and the media, "the next step after the president of the assembly" is the winning of the post currently held by French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru.

Meanwhile, two members of Vernaudon's party who are also cabinet ministers in Temaru's coalition government were expected to submit their resignations later Wednesday. They are Gilles Tefaatau, minister of urban development, housing and land affairs, and Natacha Taurua, minister of traditional art and crafts.

That would bring to a total of four the number of cabinet ministers who have resigned from Temaru's government since the end of March. The first was Hiro Tefaarere, minister of small and medium size businesses. He then resigned from Temaru's independence political party and coalition party in the assembly. Then Vernaudon resigned as minister of the postal system and telecommunications.

With the expected two remaining ministerial resignations Wednesday, all four former ministers are expected to take up their seats in the French Polynesia Assembly Thursday morning when it meets to elect a new president, or speaker. That would mean four less votes for the Temaru coalition party in the assembly.

Vernaudon explained his resignation to his followers Wednesday during a meeting in his stronghold of Tahiti's north coast Commune of Mahina. He denounced the inaction of the Temaru government and Temaru's repeated public declarations at home and overseas in favor of Tahiti's independence from France.

"We can't run this land without having guarantees from the (French) Republic," Vernaudon said. "It's not possible."

However, while Vernaudon would not confirm a local newspaper's report Tuesday that he and Flosse had reached a political agreement along with three assembly members from the outer islands, Vernaudon did not deny that such an agreement existed.

Meanwhile, he said that when he takes up his seat in the assembly Thursday he plans to vote for "an autonomist candidate", whoever it is. "If it's Gaston Tong Sang, well it will be Gaston Tong Sang whom we will support," Vernaudon said of his party's assembly members.

As for the post of French Polynesia president, Vernaudon said, "We still have 10 to 12 days of waiting. We don't even really know if there will be an election. We'll see. There are lots of things that can happen. I think it's serious. Let's go step by step."

Vernaudon was referring to the strategy of waiting to see what kind of a majority vote there is in the assembly for the next speaker. The first thing that has to be decided is whether Temaru or the several autonomist parties will have an absolute majority of the 57 seats. If the autonomists win, the next step could be to file a censure motion and force a new election for French Polynesia president.

April 14, 2006


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