French Polynesia in Turmoil as Vote for Secession Deadlocked
Kathy Marks Asia-Pacific Correspondent, The Independent (London, England)
ONE OF France's most exotic colonial possessions, the South Pacific territory of French Polynesia, has been plunged into political crisis after elections left pro- and anti-independence parties with an equal share of parliamentary seats.
Tensions have been high in the archipelago, which includes the principal island of Tahiti, since the election last May of Oscar Temaru, the first president to favour cutting ties with Paris. He ousted Gaston Flosse - a close ally of President Jacques Chirac - who had been in power for nearly two decades.
Mr Flosse was reinstated after Mr Temaru lost a confidence vote, a move that brought 15,000 protesters on to the streets of the Tahitian capital, Papeete. With both men refusing to relinquish their claim to the presidency, France's highest administrative court - the Council of State - stepped in, ordering fresh elections in the main population centres of Tahiti and Moorea.
But Monday's vote did not resolve the deadlock. Mr Flosse, a conservative who has been accused of corruption and economic mismanagement, now holds 27 seats in the national assembly. Mr Temaru, a long-time opponent of the French nuclear tests that were staged in the country until the mid- 1990s, also controls 27. …