17 May 2004

2,500 join anti-government march in French Polynesia

7:41 am on 17 May 2004

An anti-government rally in French Polynesia has drawn an estimated 2,500 people, well short of the 10,000 expected by its organisers.

The weekend demonstration in Tahiti was called by several pro-independence parties -- including three not represented in the last parliament -- ahead of next Monday's early elections for an enlarged territorial assembly.

The demonstration saw marchers arrive in central Papeete from Mahina in the east and Faa'a in the east, and they were joined by hundreds more from the nearby island of Moorea.

The Tahitipresse new agency says some demonstrators carried placards calling for a change of government and once in Tarahoi square the crowd shouted in unison "taui" - Tahitian for change.

The election was called by the ruling Tahoeraa Huiraatira party, led by Gaston Flosse, only weeks after France agreed with his request to give French Polynesia a new autonomy statute which has made it a so-called overseas country within the French republic.