NEW CALEDONIA CANDIDATES FACE RUNOFF ELECTION

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By Patrick Antoine Decloitre

SUVA, Fiji (Oceania Flash, June 11) - Local results in New Caledonia for France's general elections have given significant scores for both pro-French and pro-independence candidates and a showdown for next week's run-off.

New Caledonia holds two seats in the French National Assembly, the lower house of Parliament.

Provisional results at the end of the first round of vote, on Sunday, have seen, in both constituencies, pro-French and pro-independence candidates who will go back to the polls for a second round next week.

In New Caledonia's first constituency, Gaël Yanno, who is the official candidate for the French ruling party UMP, has obtained 30.89 percent of the votes, unofficial results stated on Sunday evening.

The second best score (15.78 percent) is from the official candidate for the FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front), education minister Charles Washetine.

Another predominantly pro-French party, the Avenir Ensemble (AE, Future Together), which is in power in New Caledonia since the 2004 local elections, did not make it to the second round, a performance largely seen as a the result of internal divisions: current economy minister Didier Leroux, who is also part of the AE, had decided to go it alone after he failed to be officially endorsed by his party.

Leroux, who eventually contested as an independent candidate and a de facto dissident of AE, obtained 14.35 percent of the votes on Sunday.

The official AE candidate in the same constituency, Southern Province President Philippe Gomès, obtained 14.1 percent of the votes.

Gomès's second on the AE list was current New Caledonia's President of the local government, Marie-Noëlle Thémereau.

74-year-old veteran politician Jacques Lafleur, a historic figure in New Caledonia's politics who was also the incumbent MP for the seat, which he has held for the past 29 years, only received 11.74 percent.

He was not backed by France's UMP and had finally resorted to founding his own RPC (Rassemblement for New Caledonia) party.

A newcomer in politics, Kanak and Exploited Workers Union (USTKE), had fielded its former leader and founder Louis Kotra Uregei, who ended up with 5.5 percent, according to the Sunday results.

Far-right National Front's local leader Guy George was credited of 4.2 percent and Pierre Maresca, who had hoped to be Lafleur's co-list, got 2.9 percent as an independent candidate.

In the second constituency for New Caledonia, results have also produced a showdown between UMP's candidate, New Caledonia's former president Pierre Frogier (who is also the incumbent representative for the French National Assembly) and FLNKS's Charles Pidjot.

Frogier gets 35.82 percent of the votes, while Pidjot has secured 27.8 percent.

Local Congress (Parliament) President Harold Martin, a prominent figure of the Avenir Ensemble movement, received 23.66 percent.

National Front's Bianca Hénin obtained 6.6 percent, while François Apok, USTKE's candidate, got 6.1 percent.

Avenir Ensemble's loss on the local front is tipped to have the potential to destabilise the current government of New Caledonia, and could trigger a government reshuffle in the next few days, Leroux told local television and radio RFO on Sunday evening.

He said Thémereau had been considering resigning and that he could also do the same.

More generally, Avenir Ensemble's perceived setback was regarded as a result of its internal divisions and the rift within New Caledonia's pro-French camp.

FLNKS's relatively good results are also regarded as the fruit of an eleventh-hour effort to reunite after years of internal bickering.

In Wallis and Futuna, incumbent Victor Brial, who has held the seat for the past ten years and is also the official candidate for French UMP, received 33.72 percent, but will face a tight second round against Socialist-backed candidate Albert Likuvalu, who obtained 31.14 percent of the polls.

Among other candidates are two former local Assembly Speakers, Emeni Simete (14.14 percent) and Pesamino Taputaï (8.49 percent), who are likely to back Brial for the run-off since they are both affiliated to French right-wing and centre parties.

In French Polynesia, voting took place last week, well ahead of the other constituencies, due to time difference and the large area covered by the French Polynesian archipelago.

There again, in the two constituencies reserved for Tahiti and Her Islands, former pro-independence President Oscar Temaru, who was ousted in a vote of no-confidence in December last year, has made it to the second round, with 40.15 percent.

He will face incumbent UMP-backed Pape'ete Mayor Michel Buillard (41.52 percent).

In French Polynesia's other constituency in the French National representation jigsaw, the same scenario occurs: UMP-backed Bruno Sandras obtained 36.97 percent of the polls and will confront former Temaru minister Pierre Frébault, who belongs to Temaru's Union for Democracy (UPLD) platform, and obtained 29.71 percent.

E-mail : pad@vanuatu.com.vu © Copyright PAD Limited, 1999-2006

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