Tuesday, May 02, 2023

A Polynesian government for French Polynesia

People went to the polls in French Polynesia on Sunday in the second round of territorial elections, and delivered a resounding victory to pro-independence Tāvini Huiraʻatira. Which means that French Polynesia, one of the last colonies in the Pacific, is going to get a Polynesian government which will rule for Polynesians, rather than France or its settlers.

OK, that's putting it a bit harshly - French Polynesia has come a long way since the early 2000s, when it really was a choice between independence of the colonial boot, let alone before that, when the French manipulated elections and jailed pro-independence politicians on trumped-up charges. Every political party in French Polynesia is officially now pro-autonomy, with many also favouring a Cook Islands-style "free association" relationship of independence in all but name (as far as the colonial power is concerned; as the Cooks have shown Aotearoa, it actually means complete independence in practice and the formal status whenever they want to claim it). And while the Tāvini did not win a majority of the votes (France imposed an unfair electoral system, which gives the plurality winner a supermajority, precisely to keep them out), they almost certainly have the backing of a majority of voters to kick the French out in practice, if they can fudge it to those who want full independence now. Of course, that requires France to come to the negotiating table. And as we're seeing in New Caledonia, the Pacific's last colonial power doesn't really do "good faith"...

As for what this means for Aotearoa, one of our neighbours is going to be talking to the UN and demanding a formal decolonisation process. We should support them on that journey. People should govern themselves. They should not be ruled by others.