LIFOU MUNICIPAL POLL RETURNS VOIDED TEAM

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NOUMÉA, New Caledonia (Oct. 31, 2002 - Oceania Flash)---In Lifou island, northeast of New Caledonia, the final round of municipal elections at the weekend has returned to power the very team whose election had been voided by the French State Council, RFO's Télé-Nouvelle-Calédonie reports.

According to results of the vote last Sunday, pro-independence Union Calédonienne (under an alliance with the LKS) is the clear winner. Under the banner of voided Lifou Mayor Neko Hnepeune, it will this time around hold 26 seats in the 33-seat municipal council.

Both UC and LKS are components of the pro-independence umbrella, FLNKS (National Kanak Socialist Liberation Party).

Other lists included FCCI-RPCR-FULK coalition (anti-independence RPCR and FCCI are currently in a coalition agreement in the government majority), which obtained five seats and PALIKA (pro-independence) two seats.

At a first round on Oct. 20, no one of the five parties had managed to obtain an absolute majority of over 50 percent and therefore a second round was necessary.

This was the eighth vote in the past two years in the small island of the Loyalty group.

In the past four years, Lifou's municipal elections have been held 10 times.

The last poll results in March 2001 were once again contested and Paris-based State Council had to again rule on the matter: it declared the results null and void, mainly because of doubtful proxy votes.

The municipality was controlled by a former first secretary in the Island Province Council, Jacques Lallier (UC).

Since last month, a caretaker administration has been put in place, but it didn't have the power to pass next year's budget.

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