PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
CONFUSION AS FLOSSE REELECTED IN TAHITI
PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Oct. 23) – Former French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse was reelected Friday by a one-vote majority during a parliamentary session boycotted by caretaker President Oscar Temaru.
Meanwhile, Temaru’s coalition has scheduled a separate parliamentary vote for Monday to hold a second government president election.
And to make things even more confusing, Flosse announced he plans to attend Monday’s session of the 57-member French Polynesia Assembly, where he and six other persons from his majority coalition are scheduled to be candidates for the post of Tahiti’s president.
This complicated turn of events, involving several legal maneuverings on both sides, began on Oct. 8 when a Flosse-led one-vote parliamentary majority voted 29-0 in favor of a censure motion against Temaru and his four-month-old majority coalition government. But the recent defection of one parliamentary member of that coalition enabled the vote of no confidence, creating the greatest turmoil Tahiti has experienced in modern times.
So while it might appear to observers that Tahiti may have two government presidents at the moment, neither Flosse nor Temaru, long-time political rivals, agree, each accusing the other of illegal moves.
Claiming that the change Tahiti experienced under Temaru’s four-month reign "did me a lot of good," Flosse delivered an acceptance speech in the Assembly Friday admitting he had made mistakes when he was previously in power.
Referring to pro-independence leader Temaru’s first experience as Tahiti’s president following May 23 parliamentary elections, Flosse said, "The change that the population awaited relates above all to the way in which I exerted my powers. I wanted to go very quickly, too quickly, to develop our country."
Saying he wants to "regain contact with all the Polynesians" Flosse promised that he would center his policy more on the social aspect by supporting "employment, housing, family assistance, vocational training and increasing the minimum wage".
Meanwhile, Antony Géros, who was elected French Polynesia Assembly president in early June, not only refused again to hold a parliamentary session and to participate in Friday’s session, but also described Flosse’s election Friday as an "election of the president of the Tahoeraa Huiraatira," a reference to Flosse’s pro-autonomy party.
According to Géros, Monday is the only legitimate date for the parliament to elect a government president following the censure motion. "I didn’t convoke anyone today," Géros said of the 29 pro-Flosse Assembly members who showed up on Friday. "On the other hand, I convoked them for 11 am (Friday) for a meeting of the group presidents and they didn’t show up. I convoked all of the elected officials for Oct. 25, which they didn’t contest because they have filed their own candidatures," Géros said, referring to the seven candidates from the two pro-Flosse groups.
In Friday’s acceptance speech after being elected president, Flosse reviewed the circumstances that led to his defeat following the May 23 parliamentary elections. "The explosion’ detonator" came from Hiro Tefaarere and Ronald Terorotua, both members of Temaru’s Coalition for Democracy majority who were later labeled by the local media as two dissidents within the coalition. They "openly criticized the (Temaru) government, which did not respect its promises" and "also protested against the government’s religious fundamentalism and attack on the secularism within the Assembly itself," Flosse charged.
The secularism issue, symbolized by a small, wooden cross that Assembly President Géros placed on the wall inside the hemicycle, led to Noa Tetuanui’s defection from Temaru’s majority coalition and his jointing up with the Flosse forces to pass the censure motion. Temaru later removed the cross in a media event gesture before the start of an Assembly session.
But of two censure motions filed, the Assembly only acted on one—that filed by the new political group Te Ara. That motion, however, had only six signatures, instead of the required 12, which led Temaru to contest the validity of the censure vote by filing an appeal with the highest administrative legal authority in France, the "Conseil d’Etat" (Council of State), seeking to have the vote canceled. Along the way, the French State has twice refused requests from Temaru to dissolve Tahiti’s parliament and hold new elections.
"Oscar Temaru took his time to file his appeal and it’s because he realized that it was the only means of keeping his chair (presidency), all the more so since Mr. Géros declared the fall of the (Temaru) government on Oct. 9" immediately following the censure vote, Flosse said.
One local media member described Flosse’s acceptance speech as a "mea culpa" for the way he previously ran Tahiti’s government up to the May 23 elections. During that speech, Flosse denounced Temaru’s "demagogic promises", announcing, "as of Dec. 1, 2004, after consultation with the CESC (Economic, Social and Cultural Council) and social partners, we will propose to increase the SMIG (minimum monthly wage) to 125,000 French Pacific francs (US$1,360/€1,047)".
Temaru recently created a lot of concern among Tahiti’s employers by confirming plans to gradually increase the minimum wage over the next five years to 150,000 French Pacific francs (about US$1,630/€1,257) from its current level of 110,000 French Pacific francs (US$1,195/€922).
Flosse also promised Friday to reduce spendings by the presidency, adding that the most urgent task was to reestablish a partnership relationship with the French State. And he announced his intention of holding a "vote of confidence" within the next year among the members of Tahiti’s parliament.
The 73-year-old Flosse has recently announced that this would be his last mandate as Tahiti’s president.
October 25, 2004
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