Loyalists dominate New Caledonia election
New Caledonia's anti-independence parties have retained a majority in the Congress in Sunday's crucial election.
New Caledonia's anti-independence parties have retained a majority in the Congress in yesterday's crucial election, winning 59 percent of the seats.
The new Congress will have to organise a referendum on self-determination by 2018 or France will step in to arrange such a vote in line with the 1998 Noumea Accord.
Walter Zweifel reports.
Power within the anti-independence side has shifted to the Caledonia Together Party led by Philippe Gomes, who hailed the success in a televised post-election discussion.
PHILIPPE GOMES: You have to go back to the elections in 1999 to find a party with such a significant score.
In the loyalist stronghold around Noumea in the southern province, being first is not equivalent to having a majority as his lists competed with five other loyalist groups. In the southern province, the rival pro-independence ran, for the first time, with a unitary list. It yielded it two more seats as acknowledged by its leader, the veteran politician Roch Wamytan.
ROCH WAMYTAN: With our unitary list, we have had a breakthrough in the southern province, and notably in Noumea and its neighbouring townships.
As in previous elections, the pro-independence side scored overwhelming victories in the poorer and more rural northern province, while in the Loyalty Islands province it won all seats. When the new Congress meets next week, 29 seats will be held by the loyalist and 25 by the separatists. The pressure is on the loyalists to find a consensus among themselves when their policies differ. In addition, the leaders' personalities have grated so badly to produce rifts that France has not been able to mend with its call for a republican entente. On television, Gael Yanno of one of the UMP-backed factions says the quibbling has to stop.
GAEL YANNO: We dont' want that any more. It is no longer a question of striking deals. What matters is that as of now the three large groups that have been legitimised by the Caledonians today who wish that New Caledonians remain with France sit around a table.
Philippe Gomes says New Caledonians won't forgive them if they fail to have the wisdom to find common ground in this decisive point of the country's history.
PHILIPPE GOMES: It is essential that balances are found, not by siding with some against others as has been the case in the last thee years.
What Philippe Gomes is referring to is the agreement between some of his rival loyalists with the pro-independence side that saw Roch Wamytan elected as president of the Congress. That deal is linked to the dispute over which flag the territory should use - an issue that has now vexed New Caledonians for years. The future status of New Caledonia is to be determined by the incoming Congress. The Noumea Accord prescribes a referendum, but there is no consensus on how the relationship to France should be defined as the outcome of the decolonisation process. Jean-Pierre Djaiwe of the FLNKS says the Accord should be adhered to to the letter, with the scheduled referenda. What is yet unclear is if there will be a challenge to the election result because the question of who was eligible to vote is still with France's highest court.
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