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Pacific News Minute: French Polynesian Independence Leader Fails in Bid for French Presidential Race

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After a vacation here in Hawaii, Barack Obama has flown onto French Polynesia, where he reportedly plans to work on his memoirs for a month or so. The former president will stay at the resort on Tetiaroa, the island once owned by Marlon Brando.

French Polynesia is getting ready to vote in next month’s French Presidential election, though, as we hear from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute, without one of their own on the ballot.

Last month, we reported on Oscar Temaru’s campaign to qualify as a candidate in the Presidential election. The long-time independence leader acknowledged that he had no hope to win, but said if he won the most votes in French Polynesia, that would amount to a unilateral declaration of independence. Exactly how he planned to persuade France and his Tahitian rivals to agree to that wasn’t exactly clear, but it’s now a moot point.

To qualify for the ballot, Temaru needed the signatures of 500 elected French officials and received just 109. A disappointed Oscar Temaru advised his followers to boycott the election.

In years past, Independence-minded Tahitians supported the French Socialist party which backed self-determination for French Polynesia until Francois Hollande reneged on that pledge after his election in 2012. This time around, Hollande decided not to run for re-election and his socialists trail badly in the polls. Among the front runners, far right candidate Marine Le Pen of the National Front. She declared support for increased autonomy and won the endorsement of Gaston Flosse and his Tahoera’a Huira’atira. The ruling Tapura Huira’atira of Edouard Fritch backs mainstream conservative Francois Fillion. Centrist Emmanuel Macron tied or just ahead of LePen in the polls, just created a new party, En Marche, which has little organizational support in French Polynesia.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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