French legislative election: autonomists win in Corsica, independentists in Polynesia

Other “regionalists” elected in Brittany, Martinique, Guiana

Tematai Le Gayic, one of three pro-independence candidates elected in Polynesia.
Tematai Le Gayic, one of three pro-independence candidates elected in Polynesia. Author: Facebook Tematai Le Gayic
10 pro-autonomy or pro-independence MPs will seat in the French National Assembly during the 2022-2027 term, twice as many as before. The increase in the figure is due to several wins of these candidates in territories outside Europe. On the European continent, Corsican nationalists have managed to keep all 3 seats they already had.

Candidates officially labeled “regionalists” by the French Interior Ministry (including autonomists and independentists) received 264,779 votes in the second round of the French election, 1.28% of the total. 5 years ago, they got 137,490 votes, 0.76%, which translated into 5 seats.

This, however, must be put into context. It is worth noting that (moderately) autonomist candidates such as Serge Letchimy (Martinique) and Gabriel Serville (Guiana) had won seats in 2017 but they were not considered “regionalists” by the ministry at the time. Nor was Paul Molac, who then ran as a macronist but now as a Breton regionalist.

In any case, the following are the 10 seats officially labeled “regionalists”, elected in 2022 in Corsica, Brittany, Polynesia, Martinique, and Guiana.

3 Corsican autonomists re-elected as new talks with Paris approach

No changes in Corsica. All 3 Corsican nationalist MPs from the 2017-2022 term have been re-elected. 2 for Femu a Corsica (Michel Castellani and Jean-Félix Acquaviva) and the other for the Corsican Nation Party (Paul-André Colombani). The fourth Corsican constituency will remain in the hands of conservative candidate Laurent Marcangeli, who defeated autonomist Romain Colonna.

Corsican nationalists see their victory as a popular backing for them as meetings with the French government on a new status of Corsica within the French Republic are foreseen for the coming weeks. The previous French government led by Jean Castex had agreed to speak of an “evolution of the statute” of Corsica. However, it is unclear how far Paris will be willing to make changes, and how its bid will fit with the atomisation of the new French parliament, where President Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble alliance has lost the absolute majority. The Corsican nationalist parties are demanding a statute with legislative powers and co-official status for Corsican.

3 pro-independence candidates elected in Polynesia for the first time

The big news here is the victory of left-wing pro-independence party candidates Tavini Huiraatira in all 3 Polynesian constituencies for the first time ever. They are Moetai Brotherson, Steve Chailloux, and Tematai Le Gayic, who has broken a record: at 21, he is the youngest MP in the history of the Fifth Republic. Tavini’s candidates had the support from other smaller Polynesian parties as well as from French left-wing alliance New Ecologic and Social People’s Union (NUPES). The 3 Polynesians are expected to seat with the NUPES’s parliamentary group.

Following the results, Tavini leader Oscar Temaruhas said that only independence will help solve Polynesia’s problems. However, Temaru also admitted that independence “is not for tomorrow.” All eyes are now on the 2023 election to the Polynesian Assembly, where the pro-independence camp will seek to oust the Tapura Huiraatira centre-right autonomists from government —Tapura are the big losers from yesterday’s election— and then look to advance their agenda for Polynesian sovereignty.

Two pro-sovereignty Martinique MPs in the Assembly

Martinique’s left-wing Péyi-A party, founded in 2019, has won 2 of 4 constituencies on the Caribbean island, where party leaders Marcellin Nadeau and Jean-Philippe Nilor have been elected. Péyi-A brings together, among others, former members of several pro-independence parties in Martinique and seeks to be an alternative to pro-autonomy Martinique Progressive Party (PPM) and pro-independence Martinique Independentist Movement (MIM), which however has for years shelved any policy towards the sovereignty of the island.

Pro-independence party candidate elected in Guiana for autonomy

Jean-Victor Castor, of left-wing pro-independence party Movement for Decolonization and Social Emancipation (MDES), has won (56% of the votes) the second round in the 1st constituency of Guiana with a discourse denouncing social injustices, including the marginalization of this South American country within the French Republic. Although the MDES is pro-independence, Castor’s program for the next 5 years sits in the demand —shared by Guiana’s elected representatives— for a statute of autonomy for the territory.

Breton autonomist Paul Molac re-elected

Breton pro-autonomy candidate Paul Molac has retained his seat (73% of the votes in the second round) of the 4th constituency of the department of Morbihan. This is the third time (2012, 2017, and now) that Molac has won the seat. The pro-autonomy politician had been elected in 2017 within Macron’s ranks, but during the term they parted ways and Molac was one of the founders of the new parliamentary group Liberties and Territories, where the 3 Corsican autonomists also sat. Molac was the MP who introduced the law allowing minoritised language immersion in French schools, which was approved in April 2021 and which the Constitutional Council regarded unconstitutional a month later.

A look at other stateless nations

Although two pro-independence candidates had qualified for the second round in New Caledonia, they were both defeated by Macronist candidates. In Northern Catalonia, all 4 seats have gone to the hands of far-right National Rally (RN). The 3 seats in the Northern Basque Country have gone to Ensemble (2) and NUPES (1). In Alsace, most of the seats are for Macron’s candidates, some of whom have said they support Alsace leaving in the Grand-Est region. Finally, Occitania presents a more diverse map, with the RN capturing most seats in the Mediterranean coast and NUPES, Ensemble and right-wing Les Républicains (LR) winning in the rest of the country.