A tale of two presidents

After decades of campaigning for independence in French Polynesia, Oscar Manutahi Temaru has announced he will stand for election as French President in 2017. Temaru’s electoral bid comes as France’s current President François Hollande made a flying visit in February to French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna, to reinforce France’s strategic role in the islands region.

Hollande’s presidential visit to the Pacific will be followed by French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who is scheduled to visit New Caledonia between 10-13 March. Valls’ trip follows the recent Committee of Signatories to the Noumea Accord, held in Paris in early February. For someone who has fought against French colonialism since the 1970s, it may seem strange that Oscar Temaru is seeking to buy into next year’s French elections.

Temaru served as President of French Polynesia on five occasions between 2004 and 2013, but has never campaigned for the top job in Paris (indeed, Temaru’s pro-independence party Tavini Huiraatira called for a boycott of the 2004 French presidential campaign). Speaking to Islands Business from Tahiti, Temaru explained: “Our aim is not to win in France, but to win a majority of votes in French Polynesia in 2017.”

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