11 May 2009

France welcomes smooth New Caledonia elections

4:54 pm on 11 May 2009

The French government has welcomed the smooth running of New Caledonia's provincial elections which has seen the territory vote mainly for parties opposed to independence.

The interior minister, who is also in charge of overseas territories, Michele Alliot-Marie, says the election marked an important step in the emancipation process which began with the 1998 Noumea Accord.

The minister has restated the commitment by Paris to be a guarantor, a referee and an active party of the accord on greater autonomy which provides for a possible referendum on independence after 2014.

Ms Alliot-Marie says she hopes the political parties will continue with their dialogue to firm up the election outcome.

The tension and violence of the 1980s subsided after the rival sides signed the 1988 Matignon Accords whose spirit of dialogue was renewed with the Noumea Accord.

A key change has been the restriction of voting rights for new arrivals, which left about 18,000 French citizens without a chance to vote in New Caledonia's elections.