12 January 2011

Proposed Unilateral Electoral Reforms for Tahiti Nui (French Polynesia) Raises Self-Governance Concerns

Territorial Assembly President terms initiative unacceptable

Radio New Zealand International

The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, says he will push for a change of French Polynesia’s (Tahiti Nui's)electoral system this year in a bid to increase political stability. Mr Sarkozy indicated his engagement in the matter when he addressed a crowd in the French Indian Ocean island of La Reunion.

He says at a time when everybody should devote their energy to face the economic crisis, the chronic political instability is intolerable for the Polynesians who are suffering. Mr Sarkozy says Polynesia deserves better than a vast comedy where yesterday’s foes become today’s allies.

Paris last changed French Polynesia’s electoral system under urgency in 2007 to hold early general elections in 2008. Since then there have been four presidents, with the first of them, Gaston Flosse, being toppled in a no confidence vote a month into his five-year term.

There is now a threat of a fresh no confidence motion to be lodged before the end of the month. The next general election is scheduled in 2013.

The president of the French Polynesian Assembly, Oscar Temaru, is the latest politician to denounce the French President’s warning that Paris will intervene if the territory’s affairs end up in a shambles. Mr. Temaru says the comment by Nicolas Sarkozy is unacceptable, adding that it was France that created a mess in the first place as colonisation has never done any good. He says with the nuclear weapons tests, France has created a more than just a mess whose economic consequences are yet to be measured.

In an interview with the Nouvelles de Tahiti, Mr Temaru says all development that followed the tests have no proper basis and created an artificial economy. But now, he says, France is telling the territory to assume responsibility for its situation.

Paris to take care of things in Tahiti if "mess" continues, Sarkozy warns.

While on a tour of the French Carribean Islands, French President Nicolas Sarkozy talked about the situation in French overseas territories, including French Polynesia. Sarkozy claimed French overseas territories should have a new relationship with Paris. The French president wants local governments to be more responsible.

Sarkozy added however that this does not mean Paris plans to let these territories become independent.

Concerning French Polynesia, Sarkozy said the electoral reform should be completed by the end of the year.
He did not say however if this would lead to snap elections if the months to come. Sarkozy also said that if the political "mess" was to continue in Tahiti, Paris would take care of things. This could clearly mean that the new French High Commissioner could have to make important choices for the budget if political parties fail to vote the 2011 budget for French Polynesia. The current Tong Sang government does not have the 29 seats required to have a majority in the French Polynesian Assembly.

Meanwhile, the Tahiti Presse reported that:

Tahiti's electoral reform will definitely be implemented this year, according to various media reports in Paris.

There has been some delays, however, over the last days. Some Parliament members from Nicolas Sarkozy's right-wing majority have criticized the bill. They reportedly criticized the fact that a bonus of seats was created for some constituencies while other constituencies had no bonus.This is unfair, the two right-wing politicians, Christian Cointat and Didier Quentin, claimed. The bonus of seats in the French Polynesian Asssembly should be implemented for outer islands, such as the Tuamotu archipelago for instance. But the Leeward and Windward Islands, including Tahiti, will have no bonus.

No less than 37 of the 57 French Polynesian Assembly members come from the Windward Islands.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy should go to New Caledonia for the beginning of the Pacific Games in August. He should not however come to French Polynesia.

Last October, Tahiti Presse reported that the three main Tahitian political parties have expressed concern over the proposed electoral changes:

Major Political Parties Sign Resolution against Electoral Reform

The three main Tahitian political parties have expressed concern about the electoral reform French Overseas minister Marie-Luce Penchard prepares for French Polynesia. Penchard gave the outlines of the bill during her stay in Tahiti Oct. 14-17.

The electoral reform provides that the total number of Assembly seats would soon be reduced, going from 57 to 51 or 50. This would be possible by reducing the number of Assembly seats for outer islands (Tuamotu archipelago, Marquesas Islands, Austral Islands).

But the three main political parties, Gaston Tong Sang's pro-autonomy To Tatou Ai'a, Gaston Flosse's pro-autonomy Tahoeraa and Oscar Temaru's pro-independence UPLD, have all said the reform is not satisfactory. They first said it after meeting Penchard in Papeete a few days ago and they have signed Wednesday a resolution criticizing Penchard's project.

They claimed the French Overseas minister has not worked on the reform properly. They also criticized the fact that Penchard said new political leaders should emerge in French Polynesia.

The resolution (was) given to French Polynesia Assembly Speaker Oscar Temaru. He will be in charge of sending the document to French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

The electoral reform could also lead to snap-elections in French Polynesia in 2011. The reform would also make it much more difficult to file and vote a no-confidence motion against the government.


The French Minister responsible for Overseas areas, Marie Luce Penchard outlined her reform proposals during a speech delivered in Papeete on 15th October 2010.