In an unprecedented result, French Polynesia’s pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira Party candidates have won a clean sweep of all three seats in the French National Assembly.
The three will sit with the left-wing Nupes group which emerged as the second biggest force in the 577-strong National Assembly.
The success of the alliance around Jean-Luc Melenchon was emulated by Marine Le Pen’s National Rally on the right of the political spectrum, resulting in Emmanuel Macron’s centrist bloc losing its absolute majority.
In New Caledonia, Macron’s Ensemble party won both seats and also won the single seat in Wallis and Futuna, but none in French Polynesia.
A surprise novice in the Assembly is Tahiti’s Tematai Le Gayic, who as a 21-year-old has become the youngest person ever to be elected to the National Assembly of the Fifth French Republic.
Le Gayic, who interrupted his university studies for the election campaign, won just under 51 percent of the votes in the Papeete constituency to defeat former Tourism Minister Nicole Bouteau of the ruling Tapura Huiraatira party.
In the first round, Bouteau had the best score of any candidate.
Another new Tavini candidate, Steve Chailloux, scored 59 percent in his constituency to beat Tepuaraurii Teriitahi.
Moetai Brotherson, who was the only Assembly member left in the run for a second term, won his seat with more than 61 percent of the vote, beating Tuterai Tumahai.
The three, who had been campaigning for French Polynesia’s sovereignty, are now bound for Paris to take up their seats.
Le Gayic told local media that he wants France to recognise the Māohi culture.
“Because of in the French constitution, only one people is recognised, the French people, and only one language is recognised, the French language. As soon as the Māohi people are recognised as a people, the Māohi language can be made official in this territory’, he said.
In a first reaction, President Edouard Fritch said the defeated Tapura candidates were aligned with the majority of President Emmanuel Macron, which raised the question of how French Polynesia can push its concerns in Paris and how it can ask for France’s support.
Fritch said the loss was due to “an amalgamation of everything and anything”.
Observers noted that the Tapura may have been sanctioned for the way it managed the pandemic, which saw an extraordinary first spike in late 2020 and was followed by dissent over vaccination mandates.
Two weeks ago, Fritch and the former Vice-President Tearii Alpha were both fined for flouting covid-19 rules they put in place last year.
Alpha, who was vice-president at the time, invited 300 people, including all cabinet members, to his wedding at the height of restrictions.
New Caledonia’s anti-independence candidates have retained the territory’s two Assembly seats, defeating the challengers of the pro-independence FLNKS.
Philippe Dunoyer was re-elected for a second five-year term in the constituency centered on Noumea, standing for a four-party coalition tied to French president Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble.
Dunoyer won 66 percent of the vote, beating Wali Wahetra who was the first pro-independence politician to make the run-off in the Noumea area in 15 years.
In the other constituency, comprising the rest of the main island, the mayor of La Foa, Nicolas Metzdorf, won comfortably against Gerard Reignier.
Metzdorf has been a member of New Caledonia’s Congress since 2014 and in 2020, he became mayor, but to comply with French law on the cumulation of offices, he is expected to relinquish the mayoralty.
The election result reflected the sharp split already seen in the independence referendums of the past four years, with Kanak voters overwhelmingly favouring independence.
Reignier scored more than 90 percent of the votes in several electorates, and even attained more than 96 percent in Belep.
The winning candidates have been campaigning for a new statute anchoring New Caledonia within France after last December’s third rejection of independence.
They want the electoral rolls for referendums and provincial elections to be opened to all French citizens residing in New Caledonia — a proposition fiercely contested by indigenous groups.
Yesterday’s vote was open to all French citizens.
Wallis and Futuna
The candidate of the ruling majority in Wallis and Futuna, Mikaele Seo, has narrowly won the territory’s Assembly seat.
Seo beat the opposition-backed Etuato Mulukihaamea by just 16 votes, which is a score so tight that it may get challenged.
Seo, who is the president of the permanent commission of the Assembly of Wallis and Futuna, had already been in the Paris seat since 2019 after the last winner Sylvain Brial fell ill and had to quit his post.
Mulikihaamea is the head of the local Olympic committee and known for his engagement in rugby.