FRENCH OFFICIAL IN TAHITI TO PLAN ELECTORAL REFORM

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 28) – The French minister in charge of overseas territories, Christian Estrosi, is in French Polynesia for further talks on his plan to change the electoral system and hold fresh elections in January.

Mr. Estrosi arrived in Papeete for his third visit in three months - a day after the French cabinet approved his reform plan which the assembly in Tahiti overwhelmingly opposed in a vote last month.

The territory’s main parties reject his claim that the reform will bring about greater political stability.

He is due to meet the assembly this week, and on arrival described himself as a man of compromise who wants to be, as he put it, in fusion with the French of Polynesia.

Mr. Estrosi also says nothing is final until he has heard everybody.

In August, all French Polynesian parties were represented at a week of talks in Paris to discuss his plan except Oscar Temaru’s Union For Democracy which was in opposition but has since been returned to power.

The Estrosi plan provides for the term of the assembly to be shortened and fresh elections with two rounds of voting.

In a related Radio New Zealand International story, the proposed reform will allow Paris to shorten the five-year term of the current French Polynesian assembly and hold new general elections early next year. This is second time this year that the electoral system will be changed although no polls have been held under the proportional system adopted under urgency in February.

The new system will provide for two rounds of voting.

Last month, a majority of assembly members in Tahiti voted against the planned reform although many of them had earlier called for elections to be brought forward.

The last general election was held in May 2004 but half a year later the French supreme court found that the poll was marred by irregularities and annulled the elections of 37 of the assembly’s 57 members, prompting a by-election in January 2005.

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