FRENCH POLYNESIA BUDGET RESTS ON SINGLE VOTE

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Sandra Levy-Agami wants approval of her amendments

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, January 13, 2009) – (Tahitipresse) - Despite holding what both described as a "positive" meeting Monday afternoon, Ms. Sandra Lévy-Agami was still waiting for the Tong Sang government to agree to her amendments before casting her deciding vote in favor of a 2009 budget.

"I'm waiting for the concerned (government) ministers to take into account what has been discussed with (French Polynesia president) Gaston Tong Sang," Ms. Lévy-Agami said after their meeting.

While that indicated that she was leaving the ball in the Tong Sang government's court, she added, "But it's rather positive." However, she said that instead of voting against the budget, it such a situation arises, she would instead abstain from voting.

If that occurs, the only way for the assembly to approve the 2009 budget would be for the opposition to also abstain from voting, creating a 28-0 vote, a relative majority rather than an absolute majority. If the opposition votes against the budget, the result will be a tie and no budget.

Ms. Lévy-Agami has been the deciding vote in the 57-seat French Polynesia Assembly since Dec. 5 when she resigned from Tong Sang's majority coalition. That left his coalition and the opposition with 28 seats each. Ms. Lévy-Agami is seated as an unaffiliated assembly representative.

Since Dec. 5 she has insisted that her amendments be adopted for the 2009 government budget as a means of more closely following the promises that Tong Sang's To Tatou Ai'a coalition of eight parties promised during campaigning for the February elections for all 57 assembly seats.

"I explained to him point by point the various measures that I propose to revive and help businesses in difficulty, to support youth in finding employment and furthering their studies," Ms. Lévy-Agami said after her meeting with Tong Sang.

"The proposed budget provides for a decrease of 135 million French Pacific francs (US$1.6m/€1.13m) for scholarships awarded to students, which I don't agree with." She said Tong Sang told her he "was all in favor of reviewing this with the minister of education".

On the subject of how the government should deal with problems over land ownership, she said the president "proposed other ways to find solutions quickly to help families resolve their land problems".

President Tong Sang, meanwhile, said after Monday's meeting before the assembly resumed its budget debate that certain of Ms. Lévy-Agami's proposals appeared interesting, even relevant. However, he said their meeting had nothing to do with any "pressure" or "blackmail".

"She has always been clear. She said she would abstain (from voting) on the content. I have never forced Sandra's hand," Tong Sang said.

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