4 Aug 2008

French Polynesia senate nomination causes dissent within Union For Democracy

11:07 am on 4 August 2008

There is dissent within French Polynesia's opposition Union For Democracy after a 34-year-old lawyer, Richard Tuheiava, was chosen as its candidate for the French senate election in September.

Mr Tuheiava, who joined the pro-independence party led by Oscar Temaru last month, was selected after Mr Temaru decided that he didn't want to run the risk of losing the mayoralty of Faa'a and his post as assembly president, should he be made a senator.

A senior assembly member, Tamara Bopp du Pont, says three candidates that had been shortlisted were overlooked, and she will therefore not vote for Mr Tuheiava.

Another member, Chantal Tahiata, is reported to have offered her resignation from the party in protest at the lack of discussions.

But the winning camp says he was selected by the party in a democratic vote.

Mr Tuheiava is expected to run on a coalition ticket with the opposition assembly partner, which is the anti-independence Tahoeraa Huiraatira, led by the current and sole senator, Gaston Flosse.

The ruling To Tatou Aia coalition of Gaston Tong Sang is yet to announce its candidates for the September election which will be decided by an electoral college made up of assembly members, mayors and municipal councillors.

This year, French Polynesia will for the first time choose two senators when a third of the French upper house is renewed.