French election: newcomers in New Caledonia, French Polynesia

In New Caledonia, one of the two seats is now held by a pro-independence candidate, signalling a potential setback for the pro-French (loyalists) camp, while in French Polynesia, the pro-independence party (Tavini Huiraatira) has lost in two of the three constituencies.

The provisional results were supplied by the French High Commission. They are to be officially confirmed and proclaimed by the French Ministry of Home Affairs via the High Commission on Monday, New Caledonia time.

New Caledonia: one MP for each camp

In New Caledonia on Sunday, people turned up en masse to cast their vote to choose two MPs in the 577-seat French National Assembly.

In the first New Caledonia constituency, 69 percent of eligible people voted, while it hit 72 percent in the second constituency.

The turnout at the local level has often been interpreted as a will to send a strong signal to Paris, on issues very remote from the French national ones, but rather on a referendum-like for or against independence.

In the first constituency, incumbent loyalist MP Nicolas Metzdorf retained his seat with 52.41 percent of the votes, the French High Commission said, based on exit polls.

His opponent, pro-independence Omayra Naisseline, received 47.59 percent of the votes, according to the same sources.

Vying for the other seat for New Caledonia, in the second constituency, the clear winner is pro-independence Emmanuel Tjibaou (57.01 percent).

His direct opponent was pro-France Alcide Ponga (42.99 percent).

Emmanuel Tjibaou cast his vote on Sunday 7 July in his home village of Tiendanite – Photo NC la 1ère

Emmanuel Tjibaou is the son of pro-independence charismatic leader, the late Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who signed the 1988 Matignon political agreements on behalf of the pro-independence platform FLNKS, with France and pro-France then-leader, the late Jacques Lafleur, putting an end of half a decade of a quasi-civil war.

Jean-Marie Tjibaou was gunned down one year later by a hard-line member of the pro-independence movement.

Emmanuel Tjibaou’s election as a French MP is regarded as a setback for the pro-France camp, which until now held both seats for New Caledonia in the French Lower House.

Reacting to his election, marking his official entry into politics, Tjibaou said he felt a sense of responsibility in the face of New Caledonia’s current situation, which has been the scene of violence and riots for multiple weeks.

The unrest, related to what was initially a protest against a controversial French Constitutional agreement – perceived by pro-independence parties as a way to dilute their political representation – included roadblocks, riots, arson, looting, mainly in the capital Nouméa and its outskirts; and the destruction of hundreds of businesses and private residences, as well as public property such as schools.

Thousands of employees have now lost their jobs as a result, for an economic cost now estimated to be about 2.2 billion Euros.

Nine persons (including two from the security forces) have lost their lives.

This entailed the deployment of over 3,500 French security forces (police, gendarmes) in an ongoing bid to restore law and order.

Tjibaou told public broadcaster NC la 1ère on Sunday he deplored this “dramatic situation” and that there was now a need to urgently “restore the conditions” for a dialogue to resume between pro-independence and pro-France parties.

He said the just-held elections were “a proof that democracy is alive” in New Caledonia, and that this should be the only way for people to express themselves.

“We all have to offer a framework for discussions to resume, between the three partners which are France, the FLNKS and the Loyalists… We have to capitalise on this,” he said.

Voting ends in Mont Dore town hall near Noumea, and ballot boxes are opened.

‘Someone we can talk to’

Metzdorf welcomed his statement, saying “we should, all of us, go back to the table”.

He also hailed his new parliamentary colleague because “from what I have heard him say (during the campaign), he spoke in a constructive manner, as opposed to what we’ve recently heard from other pro-independence politicians”.

“(Tjibaou) is someone we can talk to, a democrat… Now it remains to be seen whether Mr Tjibaou will be able to make his moderate stance heard by his political structure at large,” Metzdorf said during the same post-election debrief.

Tjibaou has been elected under a Union Calédonienne (UC) label.

The wider FLNKS platform could not field any candidates, mainly because its recent Congress could not take place in time and was postponed sine die, due to major differences between UC (regarded as its more radical component) and the other more moderate parties also part of the pro-independence umbrella.

Voting underway in Northern Kone on Sunday.

Roch Wamytan, a prominent pro-independence figure (the current President of New Caledonia’s local Congress) and high-ranking within the UC, said the very high participation rate on Sunday was further evidence that “voters were fond for democratic expression”.

But further analysing, Wamytan also placed those results at the French national political level, saying “now we have one more point of leverage at the national level”.

‘Strong signal to France’

“These results are a signal sent to France, to President Macron so he can restore an appeased decolonisation process where the French State becomes impartial again, as stipulated by the Matignon Accords (1988) and Nouméa Accord (1998).”

FLNKS political bureau spokesman Alosio Sako also said he believed that what transpired from the local results was “New Caledonians want to live together and they want a lasting peace”.

Defeated Alice Ponga, alluding to New Caledonia’s current violence, analysed that “the majority of New Caledonia’s voters have clearly indicated they want politics to regain its place, not violence. So, on the ground, this violence must now stop”.

French Polynesia: setback for pro-independence camp

In French Polynesia, for the three contested MPs’ seats, it was a setback for the pro-independence Tavini Huiraatira: the party lost two to a recently-formed pro-France (locally known as “pro-autonomy”) platform, the Amui Tato’u.

The tendency appeared last week, when one pro-autonomy candidate, Moerani Frebault, scored 53.85 percent and, with the absolute majority, did not even need to run at the 7 July second round and was declared elected in the 1st constituency.

On Sunday, this trend was confirmed with another pro-autonomy victory: Amui Tato’u’s Nicole Sanquer scored 55.77 percent of the votes, defeating Tavini’s Steve Chailloux.

The Tavini only managed to secure a seat for the third constituency, where incumbent MP Mereana Reid-Arbelot secured 50.87 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating Amui Tato’u’s challenger, Pascale Haiti-Flosse (the wife of former long-time pro-France ruler Gaston Flosse, 49.13 percent).

Winners: pro-independence Mereana Reid-Arbelot, pro-autonomy Nicole Sanquer -  PHOTO Polynésie la 1ère

Reacting to the results, former President Edouard Fritch hailed the return of the pro-autonomy camp on the benches of the Paris Lower House, saying it was “a very nice victory”.

“Our alliance has enabled us to kick out two pro-independence MPs.”

Courtesy among contestants

Newly-elected Nicole Sanquer said she had taken time to talk to her pro-independence contender Steve Chailloux.

“If there are priority issues (in the French Parliament) we agreed that we’d like to work together… We will not go into the extremes,” she said.

Chailloux confirmed, saying Sanquer was now a French MP “for all French Polynesians”.

“We have both fought a dignified campaign… And I’m happy that we now have one more woman MP for French Polynesia,” he said.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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