TIT FOR TAT IN NEW TAHITI CENSURE MOTION

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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, January 12) – Almost a month day-for-day after a censure motion toppled the Temaru government in Tahiti, the Temaru opposition coalition filed a censure motion Friday to try and topple the 16-day-old government of President Gaston Tong Sang.

But the fourth censure motion since the May 2004 general election for the 57-seat French Polynesia Assembly has had two results. First, it created a legal debate over whether such a measure can be filed during a special session of the legislative body. Second, an official spokesman for Tong Sang confirmed Friday afternoon that the government president and his delegation still planned to leave Tahiti Friday night for Paris. Tong Sang has a rendez-vous Tuesday with French President Jacques Chirac.

That would appear to indicate that the Tong Sang government does not believe the Temaru coalition has the necessary minimum 29 votes in favor of the vote of no confidence even though the Temaru group was claiming to have 31 or even 32 votes lined up.

It could also mean that the Tong Sang government is willing to risk a legal challenge over whether the censure motion is valid.

The Union for Democracy (UPLD) coalition led by independence party leader Oscar Temaru filed the motion late Friday morning as the assembly was debating and voting on two measures to reform the voting system for the assembly general election.

Both measures were adopted Friday, one by a vote of 28-0, while there was no official report late Friday on the number of votes for the second measure. Both measures call for the elimination of a controversial majority bonus that awarded 13 assembly seats to the list of candidates winning the most popular votes.

Both measures also call for returning to the voting system under which each list of candidates must receive a minimum of 5 percent of all votes to have a seat in the assembly.

Meanwhile, by mid-afternoon Friday, French Polynesia Assembly Speaker Philip Schyle still had not validated the censure motion as legal experts continued to debate its legality. However, Schyle continued to indicate he also planned to leave Tahiti for Paris, where there also will be meetings aimed at getting the French Parliament to modify the electoral system in Tahiti.

If the censure motion is validated, the assembly will be required by law to meet and take a vote on Tuesday. If the minimum required majority of 29 seats are not filled out of the 57 seats, the session will be postponed until Wednesday, when no minimum presence is required.

Judging by the indications from the Tong Sang government, the opposition Temaru coalition could well find itself with few, if any, Tong Sang representatives present in the assembly either Monday or Tuesday.

The apparent political strategy behind the Temaru coalition's filing of the censure motion is to try and show the French government that there is political instability in Tahiti and that the French Polynesia Assembly must be dissolved and a new general election held.

Only the French president can dissolve the assembly. At the moment, the next general election for the 57 assembly seats is not scheduled until May 2009. That election is normally held every five years.

The censure motion was signed by 14 opposition UPLD assembly members, 12 of whom belong to Temaru's Tavini Huiraatira (Independent Front for the Liberation of Polynesia) political party. One of the other two signers was former Temaru government vice president, Jacqui Drollet, the leader of a small independence party.

The censure motion text claims that the Tong Sang government does not represent the will of voters, who clearly expressed "without ambiguity" their political sentiments during the May 23, 2004 general election and the Feb. 13, 2005 by-election for the 37 Windward Islands seats.

"We have already noted the absence of stability by this (Tong Sang) government, which could not even" fill all of its seats during Thursday's scheduled opening of the special French Polynesia Assembly session, the censure motion stated.

"The population," the motion continued, "could already see with this first session the return to expensive illegal practices of the Tahoeraa" Huiraatira (People's Rally for the Republic of Polynesia) political party of Gaston Flosse and Tong Sang. The motion said that the pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy party of Flosse/Tong Sang had presented four proposals for electoral reform "with a total contempt for legal procedures and regulations".

The censure motion document concluded, "The return to the ballot boxes is thus essential and must be required by a legitimate government."

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