The separatist Moetai Brotherson was elected Friday president of French Polynesia, by the representatives of the Local Assembly of this community of the South Pacific.

This 53-year-old former rugby stalwart, who supports a smooth transition to independence, was chosen by the 38 pro-independence representatives of the Assembly, elected in the territorial elections on 30 April.

In a territorial assembly of 57 seats, where the separatists thus have an absolute majority, the representatives also gave 16 votes to the outgoing autonomist president Edouard Fritch, and 3 to another autonomist candidate, Nicole Sanquer. The day before, they had elected another separatist, Antony Géros, as head of the Assembly.

"Respect" at the France and independence "not imposed"

In a speech delivered without notes, Moetai Brotherson assured the France of his "respect" while calling on the population not to "fear independence", which will "never be imposed" on Polynesians.

Despite the re-inscription in 2013 of French Polynesia on the UN list of non-self-governing territories to be decolonized, the France never wished to engage in negotiations around the decolonization of this community.

Far from the calm spirit displayed by Moetai Brotherson, the new president of the Assembly, Antony Géros, said in his first speech that the France had "used its authority to make and break majorities according to its interest, to the point of instrumentalizing elected representatives" during political instability between 2004 and 2013.

Antony Géros, a close friend of Oscar Temaru, the founding president of Tavini Huiraatira, represents the radical line of the Polynesian independence party, which wants rapid independence.

Moetai Brotherson said on the contrary that he hoped for a referendum on self-determination "in 10 to 15 years" and estimated "not to be able to achieve it in the next five years in good conditions".

Their large majority having little to fear from the autonomist opposition, the main question concerns the cohabitation between these two lines, one of which will control the government and the other the Assembly.

"There are two currents in (the) Tavini: that of Oscar Temaru who wants independence quickly and that of Moetai who wants to take his time," said Georges Ravat, a 57-year-old fruit seller.

Smooth transition

"But the autonomists, had to kick them out, they made too many mistakes during Covid and there were too many injustices in taxes," he said. In Polynesia, the wave of degagism hit the autonomists hard, some of whom, like Edouard Fritch or Gaston Tong Sang, had been in power almost continuously for forty years.

With younger candidates and a campaign focused on purchasing power, the separatists have appealed beyond their traditional electorate. "There was no change, only tax increases, so now we will see if the new government lowers the cost of living, because shopping and the canteen have increased a lot," said Jenny Faareoiti, a 40-year-old cook.

"I grew up in a separatist family and what we want is freedom, no longer dependent on France," said Here Mehao, a marketing student.

Others fear a break with the metropolis, which transfers 1.7 billion euros each year to finance Education, Security or Justice in French Polynesia from this South Pacific community. "We need this money, this food that we import," worries Hinatea Rei, a waitress in her thirties. At his side, sommelier Raimana Holman adds, estimating, that we would crash on the reef without the help of the France! »

Moetai Brotherson says he wants a smooth transition, social and sustainable development. He is expected to present his government on Monday, announced parity. Due to multiple mandates, he will leave his seat as MP (Nupes) and will be replaced by his substitute Mereana Reid Arbelot. The pro-independence president of the Caledonian Congress, Roch Wamytan, was in Papeete to attend the elections of his long-time allies.

"From the moment they have the political and institutional levers with the three - deputies, presidency of the territorial assembly and the government - and we there the presidency of the congress and the government, we must work together to advance our political project, which is independence," he told AFP. "But the French state wants to stay in the Pacific thanks to us, thanks to our territories, and it will be horribly complicated," he said.

  • Elections