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French Polynesia

Separatist elected Tahiti President, compromises on independence

Article published on the 2009-02-12 Latest update 2009-02-12 12:50 TU

Oscar Temaru( Photo: AFP )

Oscar Temaru
( Photo: AFP )

Veteran pro-independence politician Oscar Temaru was elected President of French Polynesia on Thursday. He now has five days to form an administration and has promised to set aside his campaign for separation from France to revive the Pacific territory's economy after five years of political instability.

Temaru won 37 of the 57 votes in the local assembly.

His core support came from 18 representatives of a coalition of separatist parties but he also won the backing of the party of his long-time rival, Gaston Flosse, who wants autonomy within France, and some defectors from the previous majority.

Outgoing President Gaston Tong Sang won only 20 votes. He was elected last April with a majority of just one vote and his government has been in crisis for two months, during which six members of his coalition quit.

Tong Sang stepped down last week ahead of a censure motion tabled by the separatists. He had failed to persuade Temaru to form a government of national unity.

Five years of political instability have severely affected the economy, which has been further hit by the international financial crisis.

"We have to make peace between ouselves before we can have any hope of economic recovery and overcoming the crisis which has hit us so hard," said Temaru after being elected. He pointed to the decline in tourism and traditional activities, such as farming and pearl-fishing.

The two largest political factions met several times before the election to draw up a recovery plan which will invest 80 million euros in public works.

Temaru has already been President of the five archipelagos, made up of 115 islands, four times.