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French Polynesia elects pro-independence party

French Polynesia elects pro-independence party

by host

French Polynesia has elected a pro-independence party, giving fresh impetus to long-standing calls for a referendum in France’s sprawling overseas territory in the South Pacific.

The Tavini Huiraatira party, led by former president Oscar Temaru, won an absolute majority in the Assembly of French Polynesia, taking 38 of the 57 seats, French newspaper Le Figaro reported. The assembly will elect a president of the territory for a five-year term later this month, who could then push an independence bid.

French Polynesia already has a degree of autonomy, with responsibility for policies including health care, primary and secondary education, and the environment. In this regard it is closer to British and Dutch overseas territories than to other French possessions such as Réunion and Guadeloupe, which are treated the same as continental departments.

Nevertheless, Paris retains control over issues such as higher education and defense policy. Independence has been an issue for decades: Temaru founded the Front de libération de la Polynésie, which would later become Tavini Huiraatira, in 1977.

Winning an absolute majority may give Tavini Huiraatira its best shot yet at independence, though this will need approval from Paris. French Interior and Overseas Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted his congratulations to the victors — while also pledging to “continue to improve the daily life of our Polynesian fellow-citizens.”

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