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NOUMEA, New Caledonia (March 2, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---Harold Martin, a long-time ally of New Caledonia's strongman Jacques Lafleur, was expelled Wednesday from the anti-independence RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic) party for contesting municipal elections under an independent label.

Martin, who is regarded as one of Lafleur's longest and most faithful political friends within the RPCR, is the incumbent mayor of Païta, located on the outskirts of Nouméa.

He also was recently in charge of the livestock and meat marketing board, OCEF.

A war of words erupted between Lafleur and Martin when the RPCR decided not to include Martin on the RPCR list for Païta mayor.

Martin expressed disapproval, saying he deserved to run again.

RPCR, instead, chose Harold's cousin, Ronald Martin, to run.

The outgoing mayor then decided to run for another term as an independent.

RPCR first asked him to withdraw from the election, but he refused.

An official notice of his exclusion from RPCR then was hand-served to him by an attorney.

Registrations for the municipal elections closed on Friday.

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