French Polynesia elects new president

PAPEETE - A politician close to France's ruling UMP party was elected President of French Polynesia on Tuesday, replacing the pro-independence former incumbent after a vote denounced by the loser as "robbery".

Gaston Tong Sang, 57, an ally of longtime regional boss Gaston Flosse, who is a friend of French President Jacques Chirac, was elected by the assembly which runs day-to-day affairs in the French territory by 31 votes to 26 for his rival Oscar Temaru.

The vote, which follows a censure motion earlier this month to oust Temaru's government, followed months of protests against high prices in the territory which includes Tahiti and is supported financially by Paris.

The former president attacked the procedure before the vote had even been taken.

"There can be no democracy in a country that is under the control of another power," he said in remarks given mainly in Tahitian rather than French.

"The UMP is interfering in the running of the state, it's robbery, it's a coup d'etat that's being prepared."

Tong, who spoke in French, called for all parties to "rally around and join all their energies together" and said he hoped that "the transfer of power between the departing team and the new team could take place without rancour."

Temaru, who has strongly criticised the French government, wants to loosen the political control of France, which has already greatly increased the autonomy of the collection of central Pacific islands.

France retains control of law and order, defence and the money supply in French Polynesia. The territory also has a high commissioner appointed by Paris.

- REUTERS

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