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Last Updated: Monday, 18 October, 2004, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Tahiti crisis sparks mass protest
Demonstration
The size of the demonstration was unprecedented in Tahiti
A political crisis has escalated in French Polynesia, where at least 15,000 people have staged the Pacific territory's biggest ever protest rally.

Supporters of the ousted pro-independence president, Oscar Temaru, demanded the dissolution of parliament and fresh elections.

They thronged the streets of the Tahitian capital Papeete on Saturday.

Mr Temaru, who was removed from office by a censure vote eight days ago, has accused France of interfering.

In May, Mr Temaru became the first pro-independence leader to be elected in French Polynesia, defeating the former conservative president, Gaston Flosse - a close ally of French President Jacques Chirac.

Paris accused

Mr Temaru has accused France of using underhand tactics to remove him from office.

Speaking to the demonstrators on Saturday, Mr Temaru called on the French president to "respect the people's decision on 23 May".

"We will not accept the return of Mr Flosse to power," he said.

Mr Flosse, who was in office for 16 years before the elections, has said he will stand in the presidential vote which must take place before 25 October.

Request

French Socialist Party leader Francois Hollande has added to accusations that the French government was closely implicated in attempts to "destabilise" the Pacific territory's government.

He told French Europe 1 radio, that there had been "an act of corruption" which had enabled the no-confidence motions to be passed.

Oscar Temaru
Temaru has urged Chirac to respect the people's decision
"What is happening in Polynesia is extremely serious because four months ago there were elections; a majority emerged from the ballot box; a new president was installed after 16 years of omnipotence on the part of Mr Gaston Flosse."

He said that he had written to Mr Chirac to ask for the dissolution of the French Polynesian assembly and fresh elections.

"What we want is the dissolution of the Polynesian assembly and a return to the ballot box," he said.

The French Overseas Territories Minister Brigitte Girardin said she did not want to enter into an argument with the Socialist Party.

She told France 2 TV: "The role of the state is to enforce the law and I don't accept that it be attacked and that some set themselves up as super guardian of legality."

France retains control of law enforcement, defence and the money supply, but has allowed more autonomy in French Polynesia, which groups 118 islands.

France is represented by a high commissioner appointed by Paris.




SEE ALSO:
Polynesian separatists lose power
10 Oct 04  |  Asia-Pacific
New leader for French Polynesia
15 Jun 04  |  Asia-Pacific
Tahiti rally demands Flosse resign
06 Dec 99  |  Asia-Pacific
Regions and territories: French Polynesia
28 Sep 04  |  Country profiles


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