Pacific Scoop

New Paris envoy pledges to solve Tahiti’s political crises, problems


OUT: France's High Commissioner in Polynesia Adolphe Colrat (above) has now been replaced. Photo: Tahiti Presse

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Patrick Decloitre

Richard Didier

IN: New French High Commissioner in Polynesia Richard Didier. Photo: French Government

France’s new envoy in French Polynesia, High Commissioner Richard Didier, has vowed to  tackle the French Pacific territory’s ongoing economic and political crises.

Didier took up his position in French Polynesia last week.

He was appointed in December 2010 to replace outgoing Adolphe Colrat who had held the position since mid-2008 and who has now been appointed Prefect to the Meurthe-et-Moselle region (northeastern France).

Didier, who was until recently Prefect for France’s Haute-Loire (Upper Loire) region, has also held several positions in related to the Pacific region.

Between mid-2006 and mid-2008, he was the Prefect/Administrator  Superior for Wallis and Futuna, another French Pacific dependency.Immediately before that, he was then French President Jacques Chirac’s special advisor for overseas countries and territories.

During that tenure, he has had to deal with a particularly volatile situation in Wallis, which threatened to degenerate into an armed conflict between rival chiefly clans.

Upon arriving in French Polynesia, he was forthcoming in telling local reporters that his main roadmap was “to get this country out of its economic and political crisis”.

The comments echoed those made earlier this month by French President Nicolas Sarkozy who, in direct reference to French Polynesia, heralded a new electoral system to “put an end to this mess”.

“Listen, in French Polynesia, over the past three years, every (political) alliance that had been attempted, under the eyes of  helpless (citizens) who are watching their leaders’ infighting, have failed … It was the (French) State’s role to restore order to this  situation, we have done this and French Polynesia will be given a new electoral system before the end of the year (2011)”, Sarkozy said in a speech two weeks ago, to present his 2011 wishes to French citizens living in overseas departments and territories.

“Hear me out: I wish to give you the maximum of responsibilities, to be on your side as best as possible, but when a territory is in a mess and helplessness prevails, the State will have no complex in taking things back into hands. This is the deal, it cannot be otherwise”.

The electoral reform, he said, was designed “to allow this territory too be appropriately governed by its political leaders”.

Since the general elections of 2004, in French Polynesia, paper-thin majorities have yielded as many as twelve governments over the past six years.

Most of the changes occurred by way of motions of no-confidence, often the result of fluctuating alliances between local party leaders.

The current government, headed by President Gaston Tong Sang, has not yet managed to pass its 2011 budget.

Talks are ongoing behind the scenes, between parties, in order to muster a consensus, at least to pass the crucial appropriation bill.

If the impasse persists, the High Commissioner has authority to bypass the local system and enact an estimated budget in order to expedite
current affairs.

Sarkozy also earlier this month, during the same speech, announced he would make his first official trip to the Pacific late August 2011, on the occasion of the official opening of the Pacific Games, held this year in New Caledonia.

‘Vast comedy’: Sarkozy
Sarkozy’s speech early this year for his 2011 “wishes” did not come as a surprise: at the very same occasion, the year before, in January 2010, he had already lashed out at what he termed French Polynesia’s “vast comedy” in terms of political instability while at the same time announcing electoral and institutional reforms to put an end to this situation.

The reforms were first supposed to be carried out “some time this year (2010)”… 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 at the time.

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 10 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 have been gravely compounded 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,” Sarkozy already stressed in January 2010.

“At a time when everyone should mobilise 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.

During the same January speech, in 2010 and again this year in 2011, Sarkozy also made repeated calls on all French overseas communities to “take charge of their own economic destiny” by generating their own economic self-reliance, instead of relying on a hand-out policy by way of subsidies from the French government.

Source: Oceania Flash