TAHITI PREPARES FOR SECOND ROUND OF VOTING

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 30, 2008) – Voters in Tahiti and Her Islands face an historic second round of a general election on Feb. 10 for the 54 remaining seats to be filled in the 57-seat French Polynesia Assembly.

But if none of the three political groups end up with a minimum majority of 29 seats on Feb. 10, there will be a third round of voting on or shortly after Feb. 21 when the assembly begins meeting to elect a new French Polynesia president.

The lists of candidates filed Tuesday night for the Feb. 10 voting in the five remaining electoral districts contained no alliances and no surprises. Each of the three political powers basically decided to go with the same candidates they put before voters last Sunday.

The Feb. 10 voting will be historic because it's the first time Tahiti has ever held two rounds of voting to elect the assembly members. The four possible scenarios for the Feb. 10 voting results are:

If the fourth scenario becomes reality on Feb. 10, the new possible scenarios for the assembly starting on Feb. 21 are:

If no one can form an absolute majority, either one group tries to lead with a relative majority of less than 29 seats, or the Tahitian tradition of political horse-trading begins with unpredictable results as loyalties are swapped for promises of government ministerial posts or other rewards.

On Feb. 10, French Polynesia voters will be deciding which candidates should fill:

In another surprise Sunday, the three seats from the northernmost Marquesas Islands were decided when Nuku Hiva Mayor Benoït Kautai's list on 53.60% of the 5,172 valid votes cast. That earned him and Joelle Rauzy-Frébault, the N° 2 on the list, seats in the assembly. Incumbent René Kohumoetini, a member of Flosse's party, won the third seat.

Meanwhile, Nicole Bouteau announced Tuesday she would not be forming any alliance, thus giving up the chance for her small, pro-France, pro-autonomy party to have one or two seats in the assembly. She headed up the only Windward Islands candidate list that surpassed the 5% vote threshold Sunday to qualify for forming an alliance with Tong Sang, Temaru or Flosse.

During a press conference she announced that she had received a phone call Monday from French Overseas State Secretary Christian Estrosi, congratulating her on her party's accomplishment. Her No Oe e Te Nunaa party received 5,879 votes, or 6.59% of the 89,273 valid votes in the Windward Islands.

She said she was a bit surprised when Estrosi asked her to form an alliance with Tong Sang, saying she would have preferred to hear from Tong Sang first. When she and Tong Sang finally did meet on Monday, she said, he did not propose adding her or anyone else from her party to his Feb. 10 candidate list.

However, in meeting with Flosse Monday, she said, her party was offered the N° 4 and N° 7 places on his party's list. That would have meant Flosse would have had to eliminate two persons from his candidate list used for Sunday's first round.

Bouteau said her party finally decided not to form any alliance and leave its supporters free to vote for whomever they wished on Feb. 10.

Tong Sang said Tuesday he was satisfied with Sunday's surprising results, which he described as "more than honorable" as his To Tatou Ai'a coalition outpolled everyone. It received 1,020 more votes than Temaru's Union for Democracy (UPLD) lists and 13,691 more votes than Flosse's Tahoera'a Huiraatira lists.

Not only did Tong Sang's lists receive 32.70% of all 125,602 valid votes cast in French Polynesia on Sunday, but also 45.43% of the 18,407 valid votes cast in the Leeward Islands, where he is mayor of Bora Bora. It also received 34.74% of the 89,273 valid votes in the Windward Islands.

Speaking of Monday's meeting with Ms. Bouteau and her party, Tong Sang said, "I didn't go to offer them a place on our list because I know Nicole Bouteau's convictions. I told her that I needed her votes for (French) Polynesia's stability. Basically, nothing separates us.

"She didn't ask me either to be on the list. She told me that regardless of No Oe e Te Nunaa's finish, its votes will would naturally go to To Tatou Ai'a" on Feb. 10, Tong Sang said.

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