7 Aug 2006

Leader of political party in French Polynesia forced to vacate assembly seat

10:21 am on 7 August 2006

The leader of French Polynesia's No Oe te Nunaa Party, Nicole Bouteau, has been forced to vacate her assembly seat for a year after the French supreme court found her guilty of an election campaign irregularity.

The court in Paris ruled that she violated accounting rules in the run-up to last year's by-election in Tahiti.

Ms Bouteau claimed that it was an oversight which had gone undetected as she had made the same type of declaration without any objections ahead of the election of 2004.

She says she is perplexed that the court declared her ineligible for a year and accused the judiciary of not applying the same justice to all.

Her seat will be filled by the next politician on the party list, Thilda Fuller.

Opinion polls in Tahiti have consistently rated Ms Bouteau as the most popular politician.

A final ruling is still pending in the French supreme court in the case brought against MP and Aia Api party leader, Emile Vernaudon , who has neither resigned nor been forced to leave the assembly although he was given a suspended one-year jail sentence for corruption this year.

Another party leader with a suspended jail sentence, Gaston Flosse, is also still in the assembly.