10 Apr 2006

French court ruling has potential to bring down government in French Polynesia

6:58 am on 10 April 2006

An imminent ruling from the French supreme court will decide whether the French Polynesian president, Oscar Temaru, has to acknowledge the resignation of one his ministers - a move which has the potential to bring down the government in Tahiti.

Hiro Tefareere resigned last month after half a year in government to return to his assembly seat, but Mr Temaru has refused to sign the necessary papers to make his departure official.

The move has blocked a possible dissident and allowed Lela Temauri to keep Mr Tefaarere's seat as the assembly prepares to elect a new speaker for a one-year term in four days.

For the election, the ruling coalition has put forward the incumbent, Antory Geros, while the main opposition Tahoeraa Huiraatira Party has nominated Gaston Tong Sang, who unsuccessfully stood as presidential candidate against Mr Temaru last year.

Mr Tefaarere has now resigned from Mr Temaru's pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party and hinted that he might align himself with the Aia Api Party which is part of the ruling coalition.

But the Aia Api leader, Emile Vernaudon, who is a minister despite serving a suspended jail sentence for corruption, has been at odds with Mr Temaru purportedly over the president's push for decolonisation.

This comes as the opposition parties keep denouncing Mr Temaru's pronouncement for independence and seek to unite those in favour of autonomy within France.