16 Apr 2007

New Caledonia's Jacques Lafleur to stand again for French Assembly

6:09 am on 16 April 2007

New Caledonia's veteran politician and French assembly member, Jacques Lafleur, has announced his candidacy for another term in Paris after his recent public spat with the ruling French UMP Party which now no longer endorses him.

Mr Lafleur, who is 74 and has been an assembly member for the past 29 years, launched his campaign at the weekend at the inaugural congress of his new RPC party in Noumea attended by about 1,300 supporters.

His bid for re-election comes amid unprecedented rivalry within New Caledonia's anti-independence camp.

The Rassemblement-UMP Party has nominated its two candidates for the French elections, including Pierre Frogier who replaced Mr Lafleur as party leader last year.

The ruling Future Together Party has also nominated two candidates but it may see another challenger enter the race.

It's not clear if the National Front, whose leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, enjoys strong support among New Caledonian leaders, will enter the June election.

Mr Lafleur fell out with the UMP over its support for a constitutional amendment to restrict voting rights in New Caledonia to long-term residents.