France eager to resolve Polynesian political crisis

5th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Nov 5 (AFP) - The French government was engaged in efforts Friday to defuse a political crisis in its Pacific territory of French Polynesia, where a pro-independence leader was last month ousted from power by a long-time ally of President Jacques Chirac.

PARIS, Nov 5 (AFP) - The French government was engaged in efforts Friday to defuse a political crisis in its Pacific territory of French Polynesia, where a pro-independence leader was last month ousted from power by a long-time ally of President Jacques Chirac.

Delegations from the two camps have spent the last week in Paris holding talks at the overseas affairs ministry, amid growing signs that the government will call new elections across the remote island chain in a bid to secure a stable majority in the territorial assembly.

The crisis burst out on October 9 when the separatist politician Oscar Temaru - president of the territory since elections in May - was defeated in a confidence motion thanks to a defection to the party of Polynesia's veteran leader Gaston Flosse.

Flosse, 73, who has been the president of the territory's 240,000 inhabitants for 16 years since 1984, is also a member of the Paris upper house of parliament, the Senate, for Chirac's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party. Following Temaru's defeat he was once again returned to office.

Supporters of Temaru have staged a series of protests in the capital Papeete on the island of Tahiti, alleging that Flosse stage-managed his comeback with the help of political allies in Paris. They have the backing of the opposition Socialists in Paris who accuse Flosse of being a corrupt Chirac stooge.

Chirac's government is eager to find a solution to the crisis, which risks spinning into strikes which would harm the territory's already highly dependent economy.

Reports Friday suggested that the government is banking on a ruling expected next week from the state council - France's highest administrative court - on complaints lodged by both parties into alleged irregularities in the May vote. If they are established then new elections will be held in three months.

Lying some 17,000 kilometres (10,500 miles) from France, Polynesia consists of five archipelagos and 118 islands spread over an area the size of Europe. Annexed by France in 1880, the territory lives on tourism, fishing and handouts from Paris.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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