PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT
Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
FRENCH POLYNESIA LEADERSHIP STILL IN DOUBT
By Patrick Antoine Decloitre
PAPEETE, Tahiti (Oceania Flash, Oct. 26) – French Polynesia's Legislative Assembly failed to sit yesterday in what was described as a second attempt to elect a President for the French Pacific country.
The failed sitting adds to the already-high tension of the capital Pape'ete.
It came three days after the Assembly endorsed the return of former French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse.
Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira party caucus leader, Edouard Fritch, said they had been waiting for "over an hour" for Assembly Speaker Antony Géros to turn up and chair the sitting he himself had scheduled.
"It looks like playing hide and seek... But it seems (Speaker) Géros has understood that this sitting was illegal, as far as the election of a President of French Polynesia was concerned", Fritch said in a release.
Pro-independence President Oscar Temaru, who came to power in June this year as a result of general elections, was ousted in a motion of no confidence on October 9. The motion was supported by 29 of the 57 MPs.
Since then, French Polynesia has been plunged into political and legal turmoil.
Assembly Speaker Antony Géros, a close ally of Temaru's, has since contested the validity of this weekend's election, which was boycotted by Temaru's Union for Democracy coalition.
Géros said he was not aware of any election of a new President and still regards Temaru as holding the top post.
"This was only a party meeting in the Assembly, and they have elected Mr Flosse as their party leader", Géros told local and metropolitan French media.
During the weekend vote, Géros refused to chair the meeting and his third deputy Speaker, Lana Tetuanui (from Flosse's Tahoeraa Huratiraa) took over, with the approval of the French High Commission.
At the weekend, a first attempt by Flosse to enter the Presidential palace was met by closed gates.
73-year-old Flosse has since decided to work from his nearby party's office, on a temporary basis.
However, the failure by Parliament on Tuesday to form a quorum has set back the date of the next sitting three days back in time.
And according to French Polynesia's new autonomy status, the election of a President must take place within two weeks following the vote of a motion of no confidence.
That deadline came on October 25.
Meanwhile, Flosse is going ahead with his plans to announce his government line-up, which he said he could do as early as tomorrow.
According to French Polynesia's framework organic law, once elected, the President has the duty to appoint his government within five days.
Flosse's election is scheduled to be gazetted Tuesday (Monday Tahiti time).
Meanwhile, after the attempted sitting was aborted on Tuesday, supporters of both sides of the House were bordering confrontation, the pro-Temaru side shouting slogans to the effect of "change" (taui in Tahitian) and insults to Flosse.
This weekend, France's highest administrative tribunal, the State Council, ruled that the motion of no confidence that toppled French Polynesia's President Oscar Temaru two weeks ago was valid.
October 26, 2004
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