|Pacific Media Watch|
Analysis - Flosse's return as president angers Paris
Title -- 5326 TAHITI: Analysis - Flosse's return as president angers Paris
Date -- 25 February 2008
Byline -- None
Origin -- Pacific Media Watch
Source -- Oceania Flash 25/02/08
Copyright - OF
Status -- Unabridged
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FLOSSE'S RETURN AS PRESIDENT ANGERS PARIS
By Patrick Decloitre, editor of Oceania Flash
Pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru tells media that a main reason for his surprise alliance with his old foe Gaston Flosse was to oppose the election of Tong Sang, who is regarded by Temaru's supporters as a "puppet" of the French government.
PAPE'ETE (Oceania Flash/Pacific Media Watch): France's ruling party, the UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) has strongly condemned the election of veteran politician Gaston Flosse as President of French Polynesia, saying the way he managed to regain power was "against nature".
In a media release on Sunday, UMP secretary-general Patrick Devedjian said the French party, to which Flosse was affiliated, including as a member of the French Senate, had now decided to "sever all ties" with Flosse's pro-French Tahoeraa Huiraatira.
At the weekend, Flosse was elected President of French Polynesia after a surprise alliance with long-time political foe, pro-independence Oscar Temaru and his UPLD (Union for Democracy).
The presidential election took place in the new Legislative Assembly (57 seats) that emerged out of the recent snap general elections called by France as part of newly-introduced political reforms to "stabilise" French Polynesia.
The general elections gave Flosse's Tahoeraa Huiraatira only 10 seats, Temaru's UPLD 20 seats, but the largest number of seats went to another pro-French former President, Gaston Tong Sang, whose To Tatou Ai'a party now has 27 seats in the new House.
In spite of earlier announcements that an alliance had been struck between Tahoeraa Huiraatira and To Tatou Ai'a, during the weekend vote, Flosse managed to foster the support of 29 MPs for his candidacy after a last-minute deal with Temaru's UPLD.
Flosse was elected with 29 votes. Tong Sang received 27.
Temaru, who was a candidate, finally decided to withdraw his candidacy minutes before the crucial parliamentary vote.
Temaru, after Flosse's election, was the first to congratulate, garland and hug the 76-year-old leader, who has been a President of French Polynesia for most of the past two decades.
Temaru also explained to local media that one of the main reasons for his alliance with Flosse was to oppose the election of Tong Sang, who was regarded as being openly backed by and a "puppet" of the French government and its State Secretary for Overseas territories, Christian Estrosi.
UMP condemns "personal tactics"
"UMP condemns this personal strategy that goes against the will expressed by the (French) Polynesians during the general elections It now deems that the Tahoeraa Huiraatira no longer has its place in UMP's ranks and therefore decides to sever all ties with this party," the release said.
UMP also "calls on all pro-autonomy (pro-French) sympathisers to unite in order to offer a new solution for the future of this territory, a solution that respects the (French) Polynesians and the trust they have placed in them".
Estrosi also reacted to the weekend election of Gaston Flosse as President.
In a brief release, the French assistant minister said he "took note of the vote in French Polynesia's assembly" and also noted "the result that brought Gaston Flosse to the Presidency of French Polynesia could only take place with the votes of Oscar Temaru's pro-independence party members".
Estrosi said he "called on everyone to act responsibly in the superior interest of French Polynesia and the respect of the choice expressed by its inhabitants during the February 10 (general elections) vote".
Last week,, after Tong Sang's victory at the general elections, Estrosi confirmed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy would visit French Polynesia in the third week of April.
Sarkozy is scheduled to sign a "development contract" bearing hundreds of millions of dollars for French Polynesia.
France injects each year an estimated 1.35 billion euros (about 2 billion US dollars) in direct or induced assistance to French Polynesia.
Meanwhile, as a direct result of the weekend Presidential vote, the local legislative assembly Speaker, Edouard Fritch, who was elected last week as a result of a deal with Tong Sang, has announced that he would resign, probably to make way for pro-independence MP Antony Géros, from Temaru's UPLD.
Flosse is due to announce his government before the end of this week. It is widely anticipated that Temaru's UPLD members will be largely represented in the new executive.
Sweet taste of revenge
Flosse's return to power, against all odds, is also widely regarded as a kind of revenge from the old leader vis-à-vis Paris, where the term of "deflossification" had been used several times in the French Parliament (including in UMP and even opposition Socialist ranks) in the past few months.
Echoing reaction from local MPs in Tong Sang's camp, who at the weekend expressed "disgust" at the "electoral hold-up" and a sense of "treason", the French UMP party communiqué also lashed out at Flosse's election, saying it "betrays the voters' choice and the commitments made by Gaston Flosse.
On several occasions, during and after the general elections, Flosse had publicly and solemnly pledged that he would under no circumstances strike an alliance with Temaru.
But minutes before his election as President on Sunday, he told the House that "stability has not emerged" from the recent general elections.
Flosse said an alliance within the pro-French camp was "not sufficient" to form an absolute majority and was "not the response to voters' expectations".
"A wider alliance is necessary", he told MPs, amid mixed reactions of boos and cheers.
In the process, Flosse also confirmed that a widely-rumoured alliance between himself and Temaru, his 30-year-political foe, had been struck as early as July 2007 - more precisely on 7 July 2007, he pointed out.
"We have met and we have opened a dialogue to put an end to the sterile confrontation that opposed us for the past 30 years", he revealed.
"We did not make any concession on our opposing beliefs Mr Temaru remains convinced French Polynesia should become a sovereign State. I remain convinced French Polynesia should remain French", he explained, citing the notion of "mutual respect" and the desire to put an end to the "permanent confrontation between the pro-autonomy (pro-French) and the pro-independence blocs".
"But without giving up our beliefs, we have managed to agree on numerous issues such as education, health, economy, environment", he added.
Flosse lost power as a result of the May 2004 general elections, which saw a landslide victory of his then-opponent Oscar Temaru.
Since then, Temaru lost power and came back in September last year with Flosse's backing, a first apparent result of the then-unofficial deal.
Temaru's return at the time was already at the expense of Tong Sang, who was ousted in a motion of no confidence.
But Flosse's de facto alliance with Temaru had also cost him dearly at the recent general elections.
He suffered a severe backlash, a sanction from the voters who did not seem to approve of the reconciliation between the two former bitter enemies.
For the past five years, the French Pacific territory's political life has been marked by frequent changes of governments, through the vote of several motions of no confidence that toppled successive presidents, including Temaru and Tong Sang.
This was mainly due to very slim majorities in the House.
Last year, the new French government and his State Secretary for Overseas, Christian Estrosi, had a new set of bills endorsed by the French Parliament in order to introduce new rules in the voting system and call fort the recent snap general elections.
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