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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 21) – French Polynesia President Oscar Temaru announced his third government in two years Friday, relieved that he had survived the opposition's "attempted coup d'état".

"Here we go until 2009 and even after 2009," Temaru predicted, referring to his new government of once again 18 ministers lasting until the next scheduled French Polynesia Assembly elections in 2009.

Temaru's mention of the opposition's attempted coup d'état was a reference to two intense weeks of political negotiations in which several pro-autonomy leaders in the assembly tried to organize a majority coalition. The closest they got was on April 13 when they got Philip Schyle elected speaker of the assembly by a vote of 29-28, the minimum for an absolute majority.

But then the negotiations went into high gear with both sides trying to convince members of the assembly to switch political camps. At one point on Wednesday, Temaru announced that four of his ministers would resign and return to their seats in the assembly to make sure he had a majority of the 57 votes. That turned out not to be necessary.

There are now five new cabinet ministers, who either replaced three previous ministers who resigned, or picked up new ministerial posts carved out of previously bigger ministries.

The biggest surprise of the day was Temaru's appointment of Temauri Foster, the mayor of the Tuamotu atoll of Hao, as his minister of decentralization and the development of French Polynesia's 48 communes. Both portfolios were previously held by Temaru, who keeps the portfolios of foreign relations and statutory reform.

Foster was elected a member of the assembly in 2004 as a candidate on the list of the pro-autonomy party of Gaston Flosse, one of today's opposition leaders and former French Polynesia president.

Foster's nomination was a surprise because the person who replaces him in the assembly is the next person on the Flosse party electoral list from 2004. That means that person has switched from Flosse's party to Temaru's majority coalition party.

The four other new ministers are the same ones Temaru announced on Wednesday. And the remaining 13 ministers are the same ones who were in Temaru's cabinet at the beginning of this week.

That means Jacqui Drollet remains the most powerful member of Temaru's government with the combined posts of government vice president, finance minister, tourism minister and communications minister. He is also official spokesman for the Temaru government.

When Temaru was first elected Tahiti's president by the French Polynesia Assembly following his coalition party's victory in the 2004 election for the 57 assembly seats, he appointed a government of nine ministers.

Flosse returned to power in the fall of 2004 after filing a censure motion, but Temaru returned to power in 2005 following the results of a by-election for the 37 Windward Island seats in the 57-seat assembly. He then appointed a government of 16 ministers, which later became 18.

Now he has 18 ministers once again, five of them new ones. New minister Michel Yip has been given the portfolios of postal system and telecommunications minister and new information technologies, previously held by Emile Vernaudon, who quit Temaru's government last week and is now an opposition party leader in the assembly. Yip is also perliculture minister, a portfolio previously held by Keitapu Maamaatuaiahutapu, who remains minister of the sea, aquaculture and research.

New minister Teina Maraeura has been given the portfolio of development of the archipelagos, previously held by Louis Frébault, who is now minister of small and medium size businesses, a post previously held by Hiro Tefaarere, who resigned at the end of March.

New minister Léon Lichtle has been given the portfolios of sports and arts and crafts. Vernaudon previously had the sports portfolio, while Natacha Taurua, a member of Vernaudon's party, was minister of arts and crafts and traditional art. She also resigned. Lichtle is also mayor of Ua Huka in the Marquesas Islands.

New minister Dauphin Domingo has been given the portfolio of inter-island maritime and aviation transportation, previously held by James Salmon, who remains public works, energy, ground transportation, maritime affairs, ports and airports minister.

During Friday's press conference, Temaru said of the opposition, "They are there (in the assembly) to wreck; to conduct political terrorism. As for us, we are there to build."

But Flosse's party issued a communiqué Friday charging that Temaru's choices as new ministers "were made only to satisfy the appetites of some elected officials".

The cabinet reshuffling "was not guided by a search for efficiency and competence, hoped for by a huge majority of (French) Polynesians during a recent public opinion poll", the communiqué claimed.

Flosse's party also claimed that Temaru's new government represents "an over-representation" of Tuamotu Archipelago and Marquesas Islands, "to the detriment of those from the Leeward Islands and the Austral Islands, who were completely forgotten in the distribution of (ministerial) portfolios."

The results "confirm that the nominations were guided only by politicians' calculations and with the only goal of saving a shaky majority", the communiqué stated. "This new government will not be able to return the moral to economic actors" and "it does not contain any ingredients necessary to reverse the confidence crisis throughout the land", Flosse's party said.

April 27, 2006


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