- French Polynesia
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[End Page 171]
The period under review was not particularly rich in new events. While no economic recovery was in sight, local politicians, fed by French subsidies, continued their games of making and unmaking majorities in the Assembly of French Polynesia, culminating in the eleventh change of government since 2004. The only possibly interesting development is that the new pro-independence majority now wants to internationalize the country's problems and get it out of the grip of Paris.
As the review period started, the ongoing political instability continued to worsen as President Tong Sang's minority government became more and more immobilized. Tong Sang had been leading a coalition government between his own To Tatou Aia (Our Country) party and Gaston Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira (People's Rally) since November 2009, but the coalition virtually broke apart in April 2010. However, there had not been a motion of no confidence against Tong Sang because Tahoeraa could not agree on a common platform with the opposition Union Pour La Démocratie (UPLD, Union for Democracy), led by Oscar Temaru. Cabinet ministers from Tahoeraa refused to resign, even though the party leadership claimed Tahoeraa to be an opposition party. During a budgetary debate on 2 August, Tahoeraa representatives charged Tong Sang with incompetency to lead the country and called on him to resign (TP, 2 Aug 2010).
Tahoeraa's confusing attitude of attacking the president and demanding his resignation, while at the same time allowing its members to keep their cabinet portfolios, can only be understood by looking at the peculiarities of French Polynesia's political system. As long as Tong Sang did not resign, he could only be overthrown by a constructive vote of no confidence, which would require an overall majority and entail the automatic election of a successor. A resignation, on the other hand, would provoke a new presidential election, which could take up to three rounds of voting. In this scenario, Flosse, through clever tactics, might have had a chance to become president once more, since a relative majority would be sufficient in the third round (see articles 1 and 5 of the 2007 Organic Law of French Polynesia).
While the stalemate continued at home, the battleground for Tahitian politics was temporarily shifted overseas. During the annual Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu, on 3-6 August, Vice President Edouard Fritch asked that his country finally be granted full membership. After having been granted observer status in 2004, French Polynesia [End Page 172] became an associated member in 2006, which Fritch considered an unjust, second-class status since it precluded the country's representatives from participating in some of the Forum's important political and economic discussions. The request for full membership was denied by the majority of Forum member countries because, according to the Forum's statutes, full membership is limited to independent or fully self-governing countries (such as those in free association), while French Polynesia is considered only a partially autonomous territory under French sovereignty. Assembly Speaker Oscar Temaru, who also attended the Forum meeting, underlined that as long as the country was not independent, full membership was not possible (TP, 4 Aug, 8 Aug 2010). In this sense, Fritch and the other pro-French politicians have been acting hypocritically—at home they staunchly refuse independence from France while at international meetings they act as if their country is a sovereign state.
At the same time, irresponsible behavior had been common in domestic issues as well. In mid-August, the employees of the municipal administration of Teva I Uta on Tahiti's south shore went on strike because UPLD Mayor Tina Cross had demanded that her employees accept a reduction in salaries after misspending by the previous Tahoeraa municipal administration had brought Teva I Uta to the brink of bankruptcy (TPM, Sept 2010). It was nearly three months before the conflict was resolved and municipal...