US embassy cable - 04PARIS7928

TENSION IN TAHITI AS POLITICAL STRUGGLE PLAYS OUT IN POLYNESIA, PARIS

Identifier: 04PARIS7928
Wikileaks: View 04PARIS7928 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Paris
Created: 2004-10-29 11:06:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV PNAT FR FP XV
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.


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FM AMEMBASSY PARIS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7979
INFO EU MEMBER STATES  PRIORITY
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY SUVA PRIORITY 
AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 
AMCONSUL MELBOURNE PRIORITY 
AMCONSUL SYDNEY PRIORITY 
USEU BRUSSELS PRIORITY 0947
USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 
C O N F I D E N T I A L  PARIS 007928 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2014 
TAGS: PGOV, PNAT, FR, FP, XV 
SUBJECT: TENSION IN TAHITI AS POLITICAL STRUGGLE PLAYS OUT 
IN POLYNESIA, PARIS 
 
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Paul Mailhot, for reasons 1.4 
 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (SBU) Summary: Political turmoil, confusion, and charges 
of corruption reign in Papeete and Paris as both Oscar Temaru 
and Gaston Flosse claim to be the legitimate president of 
French Polynesia in the aftermath of an October 9 vote of 
censure and subsequent October 22 vote for president in the 
Polynesian Assembly.  Temaru, ousted in the censure vote, 
launched a "spiritual fast" on October 26 along with several 
dozen supporters, all of whom have refused to vacate the 
presidential palace.  Flosse declared himself the legitimate 
president of French Polynesia based on an October 22 
parliamentary vote boycotted by Temaru's party.  Over 10,500 
miles away in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac, a 
long-time Flosse ally, has thus far ignored calls from the 
opposition -- and even some from the center-right -- to 
dissolve the Polynesian Assembly and hold new elections.  The 
current situation in French Polynesia remains peaceful; 
however, some in France, mindful of the riots that gripped 
the archipelago following the 1995 decision by Paris to 
resume nuclear testing in the islands, eye events in the 
South Pacific cautiously.  End Summary. 
 
2.  (U) The roots of the current crisis lie in the May 23 
Polynesian Parliamentary elections, which saw Oscar Temaru's 
coalition win a one-seat majority in the Assembly (29 of the 
57 seats), wrenching control away from Gaston Flosse, who had 
been president of French Polynesia for 16 of the last 19 
years.  Temaru's coalition includes many who favor 
independence or at least more autonomy from France and is 
supported by the Socialist Party (PS) in metropolitan France. 
 Flosse, who is a senator in Chirac's UMP party and a 
longtime ally of the president, strongly advocates remaining 
within the French fold.  Temaru was ousted as president when 
members of his coalition defected, allowing an October 9 
censure vote to pass and launching a provision that the 
Assembly elect a new president within 15 days.  Further 
complication arose when parliamentarians for Flosse and 
Temaru named differing dates for the holding of the 
presidential vote.  Temaru parliamentarians boycotted an 
October 19 vote, preventing a necessary quorum to elect the 
new president.  A pro-independence boycott of the October 22 
vote failed to prevent Flosse's election due to a reduced 
quorum requirement. 
 
3.  (U) On October 23, the Paris-based State Council, 
France's Supreme Court for state and administrative affairs, 
ruled against two motions presented by Temaru's supporters to 
nullify the October 9 censure vote.  When Temaru 
parliamentarians boycotted the Assembly meeting on October 25 
-- the date they themselves claimed was the legitimate day 
for elections -- Flosse declared himself the legitimate 
president of French Polynesia based on the October 22 vote. 
Temaru and several dozen of his supporters began a hunger 
strike on October 26 and have refused to vacate the 
Presidential Palace.  They claim they will continue their 
protests until Chirac dissolves the Assembly and holds new 
elections.  Flosse has set up an alternate government and 
claims to have assumed all presidential duties.  He has filed 
a court order to remove Temaru and his supporters from the 
presidential palace; a decision from the court is expected 
October 29. 
 
4.  (U) The tension in Papeete is mirrored in Paris, where 
Socialist Party legislators have lambasted the government and 
PS leader Francois Hollande has criticized Chirac for his 
"complicity" in the situation.  Chirac has thus far refused 
to meet with PS leaders to discuss the situation.  Several 
heated debates occurred in the National Assembly between PS 
legislators clamoring for new elections and the Minister for 
Overseas Territories, Brigitte Girardin, who has insisted 
that French Polynesia's institutions are functioning as they 
should and that new elections are unnecessary.  The political 
opposition are not the only critics of Chirac.  The president 
of the center-right Union for French Democracy (UDF) Francois 
Beyrou and a deputy from Chirac's own UMP party have called 
for new elections.  Delegations in support of Temaru are 
expected to arrive in Paris and Brussels October 30 to push 
for new Polynesian elections in both the national and 
international arenas. 
 
5.  (C) Comment: Criticisms of Flosse have often pointed to 
his very close relationship with Chirac and the existence of 
several ongoing investigations into the former's governance, 
including charges of misappropriating state funds stemming 
 
 
from an October 2003 investigation into dozens of individuals 
paid state wages without performing any work.  Temaru's 
backers also claim that an audit into Flosse's prior 
administration was nearing its conclusion when the censure 
vote occurred.  Chirac helped rework a law in 1997 that gave 
the Polynesian president control over state money for 
discretionary spending, which Flosse allegedly used to his 
political benefit.  From 1997 - 2004, Flosse directed 
additional benefits of nearly 75 euros per person to his own 
municipality, while Temaru's received nothing.  Members of 
the UDF have noted that Flosse's party actively cased members 
of Temaru's coalition, seeking someone who could be convinced 
to switch allegiance and thus allow for the toppling of 
Temaru's government.  It is not clear if Chirac or members of 
his government had anything to do with ousting Temaru; 
however, it is likely that Chirac is happier with his 
longtime associate Flosse in power.  Temaru's independence 
coalition was a cause of concern for Paris, which strongly 
wishes to avoid French Polynesia being placed on the UN 
decolonization list, as happened with the French territory of 
New Caledonia in 1995. 
 
6.  (C) Comment continued: Of most concern is the current 
state of stability in French Polynesia.  It bodes well that 
an October 16 protest against the censure vote, attended by 
between 15,000 and 20,000 of the island chain's 240,000 
inhabitants, proceeded peacefully.  Both Temaru and Flosse 
have called for the population to remain calm.  However, 
tensions in the archipelago are increasing.  In the October 
25 Assembly meeting, partisans of both Flosse and Temaru were 
preemptively separated to avoid conflict.  Additionally, the 
French press has alluded to the 1995 riots that erupted after 
the French government resumed nuclear tests in the islands, 
resulting in the destruction of hundreds of cars, the 
torching of several buildings, and the recall of the Chilean 
and New Zealand ambassadors from Paris.  Most recently, New 
Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff called the growing tension 
worrisome.  While a tense calm currently exists in French 
Polynesia, the complex nature of the political crises, the 
extent to which the GOF may intervene directly, and the 
possibility of trouble merit close following.  End Comment. 
Leach 
 
 
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