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French Polynesia: New Law on the Functioning of Governing Institutions

(Aug. 16, 2011) Law 2011-814 of August 1, 2011, adopted by the French Parliament, on the functioning of the institutions of French Polynesia, aims in general to improve the functioning of those institutions and, in particular, to permit the emergence of a stable majority in the French Polynesian Assembly. (Loi organique n° 2011-918 du 1er août 2011 relative au fonctionnement des institutions de la Polynésie française, LEGIFRANCE; Loi organique n° 2011-918 du 1er août 2011 relative au fonctionnement des institutions de la Polynésie française, Exposé des motifs, LEGIFRANCE (both last visited Aug. 11, 2011).)

French Polynesia, an oversea territory of France, has the legal status of a collectivité. A constitutional reform of March 28, 2003, redefined the status of French overseas territories and divided them into two administrative categories, départements and collectivités. (La Constitution, arts. 73-74 (1958), LEGIFRANCE.) As a general rule, French law and regulations apply in overseas départements as in the mainland. In contrast, collectivités are governed by autonomy statutes, allowing them to pass their own laws, except in areas such as foreign affairs, defense, the courts, security, and currency, which remain the preserve of the French state. Political life in French Polynesia has been marked by great instability since the mid-2000s. (Exposé des motifs, supra.)

The Law amends the election rules applicable to the members of the Assembly and guarantees better representation of the various archipelagoes within the territory (arts. 1-5). The number of ministers was reduced from 15 to from seven to ten (art. 21). According to a French parliamentary document, this was done at the request of Polynesian civil society and in order to save money. This number is considered reasonable due to the size of the territory. As a result, ministries will be reorganized in a more coherent fashion and will avoid duplication of functions (art. 21). The President of French Polynesia will now be limited to a maximum of two terms. The objective is to encourage a renewal of Polynesian political life (art. 22).

The Law authorizes the creation of independent administrative authorities in order to regulate the economic sector (art. 8). It also provides that the French Polynesian Assembly must prepare a general plan setting forth the fundamental orientation in matters of sustainable development, improvement of the territory, and protection of the environment (art. 12). The Law also is designed to limit the number of Cabinet aides, which at one point in the 2000s reached 693. (Exposé des motifs, supra.) The service of these aides is to end at the same time that the functions of the authority under whom they are place ends (art. 24). Finally, the conditions for lodging and adopting motions of no confidence have been amended, and the number of representatives required to lodge such motions has been increased (art. 35).