Plans to launch a competition authority in New Caledonia have failed.
The territory's Congress refused to approve the experts nominated to staff the body which has been nearly a decade in the making.
New Caledonia has been beset by the high cost of living, prompting repeated and huge street protests over prices far in excess of what are common in France.
The main anti-independence party said it was stunned at the rejection, describing the reasons given as incomprehensible in view of what was at stake.
It said those objecting and abstaining to thwart the creation of a much-needed authority had done so because they fared badly in the elections earlier this year.