CONTROVERSY SURROUNDS NEW GOVERNMENT IN NEW CALEDONIA

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (April 5, 2001 - Oceania Flash/SPC)---One of the components of New Caledonia's ruling anti-independence coalition, the FCCI (Federation of the Pro-Independence Coordination Committees) has lodged a formal complaint regarding the election this week of the French territory's second government, RFO reports.

The complaint takes place hours ahead of the election by the newly appointed government of a new President for New Caledonia.

The Tuesday election by the 54-seat local Congress was triggered by the resignation of the territory's first President, Jean Lèques, who said from now on, he wanted to devote all his time to his other position of Nouméa mayor.

FCCI, which is part of a coalition with anti-independence RPCR (Rally for New Caledonia within the French Republic), said it should have gotten one of the seats in the eleven-member Cabinet.

But the seat, instead, was allocated to pro-independence FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front), an umbrella of pro-independence parties.

FCCI said its candidate (supported by RPCR and FCCI) got the same number of votes as the FLNKS candidate.

The proportional system used was based on an average of votes.

The Congress declared FLNKS contestant Tino Manuohalalo a winner and dropped FCCI candidate Raphaël Mapou.

At a press conference on Wednesday, FCCI contested the interpretation of article L338 of the electoral code (on which the Congress based its decision), which deals with cases involving a tie between contestants.

FCCI says the article mentions two types of ties: "when it concerns the number of votes cast, the seat goes to the elder, but when it concerns the average, the seat goes to the party that obtained the most votes," a FCCI spokesman said, adding Mapou should have gotten the seat instead of Manuohalalo.

The government is to hold its first meeting later Thursday to elect a new President.

RPCR Southern Province official and National Assembly member Pierre Frogier is strongly tipped to win the vote, with a probable vice presidency for FLNKS leader Roch Wamytan.

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