SAINT DENIS, Reunion Island
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has on Tuesday signaled yet another electoral and institutional reform for French Polynesia, in a bid to end an ongoing spate of political instability in this French Pacific territory.
Speaking from the island of La Réunion, a French overseas department in the Indian Ocean, on the occasion of his New Year Wishes to all French overseas communalities, he touched on French Polynesia with a pledge that an electoral reform would be carried out some time this year. The aim, he said, was to "guarantee more stability to elected majorities."
Sarkozy however acknowledged that similar reforms had been implemented in French Polynesia in recent years, including one in 2007. "In spite of several reforms, French Polynesia has not yet been able to find the political stability it aspires to," he said. But he justifies the intention to try again by saying he was "convinced that (French) Polynesians are for sure flabbergasted at these systematic shifts in alliances."
The latest change of government came about only a few weeks ago, when yet another motion of no confidence was passed against then President Oscar Temaru. He has been replaced by Gaston Tong Sang, who himself had been thrown out in a similar manner a few months earlier.
Since 2004, which marked the end of an era of almost twenty years of undisputed rule by former President Gaston Flosse, French Polynesia has seen close to ten changes in governments.
The changes, most of the time, occurred as a result of sudden changes in alliances between small parties and the larger ones, with nearly every possible combination over a span of six years. The chronic instability has also taken its toll on the local economy, with a significant drop in investors’ confidence and tourism arrivals. The effects were compounded last year by the global financial crisis.
"(French) Polynesia deserves serious elected leaders and not a vast comedy where enemies of yesterday become the allies of today," he lashed out. "At a time when everyone should mobilize their energy to face the current crisis, this chronic instability is intolerable for those (French) Polynesians who are suffering. I will therefore initiate this year a reform of the electoral system and of the institutional mechanisms in order to guarantee more stability to elected majorities and therefore to give more capacity to envisage political and public actions in the long term," he said.
The latest announcement coincides with a recent visit, last week, from Tong Sang in Paris, where he held talks with several French government ministers and officials.On the issue of possible reforms for French Polynesia’s institutional and electoral setup, he went as far as saying the election of the President (the position he currently holds) could shift from the current parliamentary suffrage (from the 57 members of the local legislative assembly) to a universal direct suffrage.
During the same speech, Sarkozy also called on all French overseas communities to take charge of their own economical destiny by generating their own economic self-reliance, instead of relying on a hand-out policy by way of subsidies from the French government.