French Polynesia chooses pro-independence leader
On Friday, Moetai Brotherson was chosen president of France's Pacific region of French Polynesia.
Moetai Brotherson, a supporter of independence from France, was elected president of France's Pacific region of French Polynesia on Friday.
At the beginning of the month, pro-independence forces won elections in French Polynesia, which means they will have control of affairs on the archipelagos for the upcoming five years, paving the way to a possible referendum on their status.
Brotherson received 38 votes in the territory's 57-seat parliament, while outgoing leader Edouard Fritch, who supports autonomy within the French Republic, received 16 votes.
The results of last month's election would allow pro-independence parties to press French authorities to hold a referendum on the status of the territory, which is located northeast of New Zealand and has a population of around 280,000 people.
Gerald Darmanin, the French Interior Minister in charge of the overseas territories, has recognized that Polynesians "voted for change."
The outcome is a setback for President Emmanuel Macron's administration, which wants to portray France as a major player in the Pacific region because of its strategically important overseas territories.
Brotherson promised France his "respect" in a speech made without notes upon his election, while urging the populace not to "fear independence," which will "never be imposed" on Polynesians.
The President-elect expressed hopes of a referendum on self-determination in "10 to 15 years."
However, the current head of the French Polynesian legislature, Antony Geros, is more eager to achieve independence.
In his inauguration address, he said that France had "used its authority to make and unmake majorities according to its own interests, to the point of instrumentalizing the elected representatives".
Despite the fact that French Polynesia is on the UN list of non-self-governing territories, making it eligible for a UN-backed referendum for independence, France has consistently refused to hold a referendum on the territory, which comprises Tahiti and Bora-Bora.
French Polynesia's status has never been put to a vote in France. In New Caledonia, its other significant Pacific colony, referenda on independence have frequently been rejected.
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