New Caledonia's mayors belong to the UMP-Rassemblement are set to endorse a former territorial president, Pierre Frogier, as the first elected parrty leader when it will hold its congress on Saturday.
The congress which was to be attended by the French UMP leader, Nicolas Sarkozy, had been expected to choose Mr Frogier after the resignation of the party's veteran leader, Jacques Lafleur.
But in a surprise move, Mr Lafleur announced his bid as a candidate to succeed himself at the congress called to elect a new leader.
The Nouvelles Caledoniennes newspaper says the party's mayors held a meeting in an icy and tense atmosphere, with Mr Lafleur attending as well.
The mayors, including the one of Noumea, Jean Leques, have issued a statement in support of Mr Frogier.