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  • French Polynesia
  • Lorenz Gonschor (bio)

Political life in French Polynesia during the review period was still characterized by instability and uncertainty about the future, and had only cooled down slightly after the political crisis of 2004–2005. The new government under President Oscar Temaru, who had been inaugurated in March 2005, seemed to be firmly in power during most of 2005, but 2006 brought another attempted overthrow, following a split in the governing coalition. Among the general population, the original euphoria of a new policy of Taui Roa (Big Change) has to a large degree become replaced by a more sober sentiment as taui (change) is happening slower than people had hoped. Meanwhile, the relationship between the local government and the French state fluctuates between confrontation and reconciliation. Relations between French Polynesia and other Pacific Islands, on the other hand, are becoming closer and more frequent.

In July, the president's uneasy attitude toward France became once more apparent, when he first announced ­hisintention to boycott the official celebration on 14 July (Bastille Day, the French national holiday) but then finally agreed to participate (TP, 14 July 2005). Earlier that month, on 4July, he had hosted a United States Independence Day celebration in the presidential palace, a gesture that was perceived as a provocation by the pro-French opposition (TP, 6 July 2005). Temaru also participated as a guest ofhonor in the national holiday celebrations of Vanuatu, Cook Islands, and Niue, each time underlining the importance of the achievement of independence (or full self-government), which his country still lacks.

Meanwhile, when new French High Commissioner Anne Boquet arrived on 10 September, replacing Michel Mathieu (who had tended to favor former President Gaston Flosse and his party and shun the Temaru government), hope rose for a more harmonious relationship between Papeete and Paris. Indeed, the initial relations between Boquet and the Temaru government were very friendly. On 15 September, the new high commissioner was greeted by Temaru and Assembly Speaker Antony Geros with a kava ceremony in the hall of the assembly building—an event that was perceived as a symbol both of reconciliation with the French state and of the country's cultural "reintegration into Oceania," since kava drinking had become virtually extinct in ­Tahitian culture (TPM, Oct 2005).

Reintegration into Oceania remains one of the main agenda items for the Temaru government, in the cultural aswell as the political sense. At the annual Pacific Island Forum meeting in Port Moresby on 25 October, proposals were made to upgrade French Polynesia's status from that of [End Page 213] observer to that of "associated member." In an interview, the president said that he hopes to achieve a better political status for his country, calling the present Statute of French Poly­nesia just "a scrap of paper." These statements gave rise to renewed political controversy. High Commissioner Boquet criticized the president, arguing that he was "not mandated to ­talkabout independence on foreign soil," because foreign policy was the responsibility of the French state, ­notof the local government. Temaru replied that while perhaps he was not mandated to do so, he was certainly qualified to talk about these issues (TPM, Nov 2005). Moreover, Temaru's party, Tavini Huiraatira (People's ­Servant), said in a 22 November press release, "When the president expresses himself in the Pacific, he is not on foreign soil. We are people of the Pacific," and that the statute is indeed just a scrap of paper until it becomes a constitution, on the achievement of sovereignty (Tavini Huiraatira 2005).

Another aspect of the new Pacific-oriented foreign policy of the Temaru government was its very close relationship with New Zealand. President Temaru traveled there frequently, and in late December, the government of French Polynesia purchased the historical Rocklands Hostel in central Auckland for 535 million Pacific francs (about US$5.4 million) as their future embassy in New Zealand (TPM, Jan 2006). Outside Oceania, the Temaru government maintains close contacts with Japan, China, and the United States.

Whereas relations with France remained tense, the Temaru government consolidated its power within the country as the opposition became weakened through internal...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 213-222
Launched on MUSE
2007-01-17
Open Access
No
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