14 May 2007

Unprecedented division among anti-independence candidates in New Caledonia

6:05 am on 14 May 2007

There is unprecedented division in New Caledonia's anti-independence camp following the nomination of candidates for next month's first round of elections for two territorial members of a new French assembly.

Four challengers have come forward in the territory's south to try to win the seat from Jacques Lafleur, who has held it for 29 years.

After he fell out with his Rassemblement/UMP party and moved to form a new one, the Rassemblement has suffered another split, with the loser of the internal primary election, Pierre Maresca, deciding to stand alongside Gael Yanno,who has the support of the French UMP Party.

A similar rift within the ruling Future Together Party has seen the

economics minister, Didier Leroux, seeking the seat as the territory's

choice of the French UDF Party.

This is in defiance of the Future Together party which had decided to

nominate Philippe Gomes, who is the president of the Southern Province.

In the northern electorate, which is home to most indigenous Kanaks, the incumbent Pierre Frogier is being challenged by the president of the Future Together Party, Harold Martin.

In view of the divisions within the pro-French camp, the pro-independence FLNKS has decided to contest the polls by standing a single candidate in each of the two electorates.

Observer say there is a fair chance the FLNKS may win a seat for the

first time since the late 1980's.