TAHITI PRESIDENT TONG SANG FORMS CABINET

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Retains significant portfolios for himself

PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Nov. 28, 2009) – French Polynesia President Gaston Tong Sang appointed Tahiti's new government Saturday morning - a vice president and 12 cabinet ministers, who include an historic three non-politicians from the private sector.

The appointments, which require no approval by the French Polynesia Assembly, include three former ministers in the Temaru government that was toppled by a 29-24 no-confidence vote on Tuesday.

President Tong Sang, Tahiti's president for the third time since December 2006, has kept some of the key portfolios for himself, an apparent indication of the importance he is giving to French Polynesia's serious economic and social crisis.

Besides the president's traditional portfolios, Tong Sang has kept the finance, budget, rationalization of public spending, tax modernization and government reform. While not all traditional portfolios, some, such as finance and budget, are usually one or separate ministerial posts.

The three cabinet members coming from the private sector are Tourism Minister Steeve Hamblin, Education Minister Moana Greig and Youth and Sports Minister Jean-Pierre Beaury.

The three ministers from the previous Temaru government are Teva Rohfritsch, Frédéric Riveta and Tearii Alpha.

Obviously calling on Rohfritsch's banking experience of the past, President Tong Sang appointed him minister of economic restructuring, the most important among other portfolios he has been given. Rohfritsch served as marine resources minister in the nine-month-old Temaru government.

Riveta, who was rural economy and agricultural minister in the Temaru government, has the same portfolios in the Tong Sang government. Alpha, minister of public works and urban planning in the Temaru government, is minister of land affairs, development, housing and public works in Tong Sang's new government.

Tong Sang chose most of the members of his government from the three political groups in the assembly providing him with his delicate one-vote majority. The three groups are Tong Sang's pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy To Tatou Ai'a party, the pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy Tahoera'a Huiraatira party, and the Te Mana o Te mau Motu group of outer island representatives.

The previous Temaru government had 15 ministers plus a vice president.

Both Riveta and Rohfritsch were originally elected to the assembly as members of the pro-France, pro-Tahiti autonomy Tahoera'a Huiraatira party. Alpha was elected as a member of Tong Sang's party.

The naming of Edouard Fritch, the Tahoera'a floor leader in the assembly, as government vice president and the 12 cabinet ministers occurred a full day after Michel Yip dramatically announced his departure from the assembly's six-member outer islands group.

That theoretically eliminated Tong Sang's minimum absolute majority of 29 assembly seats that brought him back to power Tuesday with the 29-24 vote on the no-confidence motion. That vote toppled the fourth government since 2004 of independence party leader Oscar Temaru.

However, Yip, a representative from the Tuamotu Archipelago, told a Friday press conference that despite his pullout from the assembly group he was still backing Tong Sang as Tahiti's president. The outer islands group now needs a new member to replace Yip and official remain a group with the minimum six representatives required.

Tahiti's new government was also announced a day after it had become clear that veteran Tahiti politician Gaston Flosse would not be allowed to accept any Tong Sang government post. This is due to the judicial control placed on him following his release on Nov. 23 from Tahiti's Nuutania Prison, where he had been held in temporary detention in connection with his indictment in an ongoing judicial investigation into local corruption.

Flosse, 78, Tahiti's president from 1984-2004, served twice as president since 2004—four months from October 2004 to February 2005 and nearly two months from February-April 2008.

The members of the new Tong Sang government are:

For Tong Sang, the mayor of Bora Bora in the Leeward Islands, this may well be more difficult than the two other times he served as Tahiti's president—nine months from December 2006 to September 2007 and 10 months from April 2008 to February 2009. However, like the two previous times, his majority coalition is the minimum—29 of the 57 French Polynesia seats.

For Temaru, his just-concluded nine months as president—February-November—were probably the most difficult of his four times as Tahiti's president even though it began with a 37-seat majority coalition—eight seats more than the minimum 29 required. The three previous times were the four months from June-October 2004, the 21 months from March 2005-December 2006 and the five months from September 2007-February 2008.

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