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  • French Polynesia
  • Lorenz Gonschor (bio)

The political situation of French Polynesia during the period under review was in two ways fundamentally different from previous periods. First, as a result of May 2013 elections, there is a two-thirds majority for Gaston Flosse’s anti-independence [End Page 257] Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party in the legislative assembly that is most likely to remain for the full term, setting the present situation apart from the preceding decade-long instability caused by constantly changing political majorities. Yet the pending retrials of President Flosse (who was earlier sentenced to jail terms for corruption, which he had appealed) as well as his advancing age (he turned eighty-three in June 2013) make it doubtful that he will retain the presidency for the entire five-year term.

Second, due to the tireless efforts of Flosse’s pro-independence predecessor Oscar Temaru and his administration to reinscribe the country on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories (nsgts), which succeeded literally on Temaru’s last day in Office in May 2013, French Polynesia is now regarded by the international community as a territory to be decolonized, although France keeps resisting what it regards as UN interference in its domestic policies. The new international status of the country gives the pro-independence opposition unprecedented possibilities to expose the country’s problems before international audiences and to promote their long-term goals of building a sovereign state.

Temaru and his confidant, Senator Richard Ariihau Tuheiava (one of the country’s two representatives in the French Senate), thus continued their lobbying at UN institutions, where they are now able to be admitted as official representatives of an nsgt and no longer need to find a friendly country to include them in its national delegation. On 8 October 2013, the two testified before the Fourth Committee of the UN General Assembly, which is charged with decolonization issues. On 14 October, the committee adopted a draft resolution to be introduced to the floor of the 68th UN General Assembly as a follow-up to the reinscription resolution of the previous session in May. The draft followed Temaru’s and Tuheiava’s advice in recommending a long period of political education in order to overcome decades of French indoctrination and propaganda before a meaningful referendum of self-determination could be conducted in the country (United Nations Web tv 2013; ti, 9 Oct, 21 Oct 2013).

While the resolution was tabled to be voted on by the General Assembly floor, attempts by President Flosse and his government to undo, block, or stall the UN decolonization process were not successful. Despite yet another resolution passed by Flosse’s two-thirds majority in the French Polynesia Assembly on 28 August denouncing the UN activities as “interference in the bilateral issues between France and French Polynesia” and lobbying efforts by Flosse to influence Pacific Island leaders during the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in September in Majuro to support this position (ti, 28 Aug 2013), the leaders preferred to be silent on the issue, and the final communiqué of the Forum did not contain any mention of French Polynesia (pifs 2013). Previously, at the Polynesian Leaders Group (plg) meeting in Auckland on 30 August, Flosse, who became president of the organization for a year on a principle of alphabetical rotation, had convinced the other leaders of the Polynesian countries to include in their communiqué [End Page 258] a note acknowledging “the resolution adopted by the French Polynesia Assembly reaffirming the democratic choice of its population to remain the strongly autonomous overseas country that it is” (plg 2013), although the plg declined to make any concrete commitments in support of Flosse’s position in the international arena.

The French government, on the other hand, also frustrated Flosse, since his demand for an immediate referendum on independence that would not restrict the electorate to long-term residents—which most likely would turn out a majority against independence—fell on deaf ears. When Minister of Overseas Territories Victorin Lurel visited Tahiti in late November and gave a program speech before the French Polynesia Assembly, he declared that there was no reason for any independence referendum, neither according to UN standards...