6 Feb 2005

More mass rallies in French Polynesia ahead of key poll

9:36 pm on 6 February 2005

French Polynesia's main rival camps have held mass

rallies ahead of next week's by-election for 37 of the

territorial assembly's 57 seats.

An estimated 20'000 people marched in support of the

Oscar Temaru-led Union for Democracy coalition,

calling for political change and an end to corruption.

Among the marchers into the centre of Papeete were

French Socialist MPs and a Green senator who

criticised the French government's handling of the

territory's political crisis.

A rival rally was held by backers of the ruling

Tahoeraa Huiraatira who organised a drive of 2,000

cars around the island of Tahiti.

The event's organiser, Emile Vernier, says their

demonstration was against racism, hate and

independence from France.

Meanwhile, the leader of the French centrist UDF

party, Francois Bayrou, is in Tahiti to support the

alliance formed by Nicole Bouteau and Philip Schyle.

He says he is concerned about the situation in the

territory where he says voters have to make a historic


Mr Bayrou says the alliance offers a way out of the

dangerous climate with its predictable confrontations.

The alliance says after the election it won't side

either of the major blocs.

The latest opinion poll by a Papeete paper lists the

Tahoeraa as the leading party and Ms Bouteau as the

preferred leader.