Upheaval in the French Pacific
As the media focus on crises in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Nauru, a political earthquake elsewhere in the Pacific islands has passed largely unnoticed. Major changes are under way in the French dependencies in the Pacific. Key politicians aligned with French President Jacques Chirac’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), have been defeated in elections over the last 18 months. In French Polynesia, Chirac’s close ally Gaston Flosse has twice been defeated in elections for Tahiti’s local assembly, losing power to a coalition led by independence leader Oscar Temaru. In New Caledonia, the anti-independence strong-arm Jacques Lafleur has resigned from Congress after his Rassemblement UMP party lost power in May 2004 elections. Lafleur and Flosse were two key pillars of French policy in the region – both had been in power for over two decades. Change is in the wind.