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  • French Polynesia
  • Lorenz Gonschor (bio)

In the often-turbulent recent political history of French Polynesia, the year under review was a relatively calm one. Against all odds, Edouard Fritch consolidated his power as the country’s president, transforming his tenuous tenure in office into one based on a comparatively solid majority, and uniting under his leadership all political forces that oppose both independence and Fritch’s predecessor Gaston Flosse. Meanwhile, for the first time in over a decade, the country hosted a French presidential visit, which made some hopeful impressions, but at the same time the French government continues to stubbornly refuse to engage with United Nations institutions to work with them toward the country’s decolonization.

The review period started with yet another unfortunate change in the local media landscape. In August 2015, at the end of the summer break (as one of its many anachronistic colonial absurdities, French Polynesia follows the French metropolitan calendar and is thus the only country in the southern hemisphere to have its long “summer vacation” during the pleasant austral winter and not during the very hot season at the beginning of the year), the formerly monthly news magazine Tahiti Pacifique (tpm) became a weekly, after having been sold by its founder and editor Alex W du Prel to local Chinese business tycoon Albert Moux, whose company Fenua Communication already owns the weekday newspaper Tahiti-Infos. Unsurprisingly this change in ownership transformed tpm, once feared by local oligarchs for its investigative reporting and scathing editorials, into a more docile publication. While du Prel continues to write good editorials occasionally and the magazine still contains investigative articles, the publication has clearly become more mainstream and now contains a lot of trivia, missing some of the intellectual depth of the old monthly edition. Also, for outsiders, the both reliable and manageable chronicle of important political and social events that tpm provided is being missed.

What remained the dominant topic in local politics for the first half of the review period, however, was the ongoing power struggle between President Edouard Fritch and his predecessor, Gaston Flosse, until it was essentially won by the former in early 2016. In September 2014, when Flosse was removed from office because of a definitive conviction in a corruption case, his longtime confidant and former son-in-law Fritch had routinely taken over the presidency with the understanding that Flosse would continue to hold the reins of power from behind the scenes. Fritch, however, developed his own taste for political power, and tensions between the two soon become apparent. In May 2015, the majority party Tahoeraa Huiraatira split when Fritch formed his own caucus in the local assembly named Tapura Huiraatira, and on Flosse’s order all members of the new formation were expelled from Tahoeraa. Fritch subsequently formed a minority coalition government with [End Page 134] the small anti-independence opposition party A Tia Porinetia (atp), while Flosse’s “rump-Tahoeraa” several times attempted to block the government by withholding support in critical budgetary votes. However, Flosse failed in efforts to enlist the support of the pro-independence Union Pour La Démocratie (upld), which would have been necessary to create a new majority and overthrow Fritch in a no-confidence vote.

Meanwhile, the process of formally splitting Tahoeraa into two mutually hostile organizations was far from over, as both factions attempted to gain control over the party as a whole. After an unsuccessful attempt by Flosse to oust Fritch from Tahoeraa, in which he continued to hold the vice presidency, in mid-August 2015, Fritch fought back and filed a complaint with the local courts asking them to declare Flosse removed from the party’s leadership, arguing that as a convicted felon he cannot be Tahoeraa’s chairman according to the party’s statutes (ti, 15 Aug 2015).

The complaint dragged along through the notoriously slow and inefficient court system and hearings were several times postponed (ti, 12 Oct 2015), but it was soon rendered obsolete by more solid political maneuvers to consolidate Fritch’s power outside of Tahoeraa. By mid-November, Assembly Speaker Marcel Tuihani, second-in-command within the Flosse loyalist “rump-Tahoeraa,” opined in an interview in...


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pp. 134-144
Launched on MUSE
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