independence in 10-20 years says new Tahiti leader

PAPE’ETE, June 15 (Oceania Flash) Oscar Temaru, the long-time leader of French Polynesia’s pro-independence movement, has been elected President of this French Pacific country. Temaru received 30 of the 57 votes in the legislative assembly. Temaru’s election marks the end of some twenty years of undisputed reign by Gaston Flosse. Oscar Temaru, 59, has been struggling for French Polynesia’s independence for the past thirty years. He founded his party, the Tavini Huiraatira, 27 years ago. For the past twenty years, he has been a member of the legislative assembly and the Lord Mayor of Faa’a, which has since remained his stronghold, near Tahiti’s international airport. He was the only candidate, after outgoing President Gaston Flosse had decided not to contest because he claimed irregularities in an earlier election of the Assembly Speaker. Temaru’s election is a result of last month’s general elections in French Polynesia. On May 23, in a major election upset, Temaru’s Union for Democracy (UPD, which mainly consists of Temaru’s pro-independence Tavini party and two independent MPs) won a majority in the 57-seat Assembly, leaving Flosse’s Tahoeraa Huiraatira with only 28 seats. Last week, Flosse’s party lost another MP, who joined the new majority. Earlier this month, on June 3, Anthony Géros, a close ally of Temaru, was elected Speaker of the Assembly. Last week, Flosse’s party, now in the opposition, boycotted a first attempt to elect a President in the new Assembly. This week, they took part in the vote. In his inaugural address, Temaru said his election was “historic” because it translated a “clear will for change”. He also moved quickly to reassure investors, saying the independence of French Polynesia was not immediately on his agenda. He said this would probably not happen before “fifteen to twenty years”, as was the timespan allowed for New Caledonia (another French Pacific dependency) on its path to independence, local radio reported. He said the priority for the next five years was to restore economic health and also to audit the outgoing government’s financial situation and to reduce public spending. Other items on the new government’s agenda are to “get in touch” with the French government to obtain assurances that “agreement signed between the French Republic and French Polynesia remain current”. Temaru also said earlier that he would seek to have the recently-endorsed autonomy status of French Polynesia reviewed, because, he said, it was “imposed without any consultation”. Another symbolic item is to scrap June 29 as Autonomy Day, a date set by his predecessor, to be replaced at a later stage by another date. French Polynesia’s legislation stipulates that once elected, the President has five days to form his government. This cabinet is to consist of “a maximum of ten ministers and probably less”, Temaru told a press conference last week. He also said it could take him “much less than five days” to announce his government’s line-up. Patrick Antoine DECLOITRE Editor, Oceania Flash/Rédacteur en Chef, Flash d'Océanie E-mail/Courriel : E-Fax (direct) : (1) 775 459 8921