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Noumea, New Caledonia (Oceania Flash, July 24) – New Caledonia's head of the local government, Marie-Noëlle Thémereau, has officially notified the French Pacific territory's Congress Speaker of her resignation.

Thémereau, who came to power in June 2004, in the wake of a landslide general election, had strongly hinted she would relinquish the position after the French Presidential and general elections, in May and June this year.

In New Caledonia, the polls were marked by a setback for Thémereau's Avenir Ensemble (Future Together) party.

Thémereau, 57, is not currently in New Caledonia, but she had left her resignation letter, which has officially been endorsed by the local government on Monday.

Congress (the local Parliament) Speaker Harold Martin has also officially acknowledged receipt of the letter, which immediately triggers the fall of the whole 11-member executive committee.

The cabinet, however, now becomes a caretaker government until a new executive comes into office.

The Congress now has fourteen days to convene and elect a new government, in two steps: first it is to vote on the number of government ministers, and later nominate portfolios holders.

The makeup also has to reflect the 54-member Congress party makeup, proportionally.

Once elected, the new cabinet is to meet again, behind closed doors, to elect a President and a Vice-President.

Among leaders tipped to become New Caledonia's next President are Rassemblement-UMP leader Pierre Frogier (who already held the position in the early 2000s) and Avenir Ensemble's Harold Martin.

Frogier also revealed on Monday that he had de facto resigned from the government one week ago, although the move had not been made public.

The eleven-member cabinet, which is designed to reflect the makeup of the Congress (Parliament), until now consisted of four ministers from former ruling anti-independence party RPCR-Rassemblement, four from the emerging anti-independence force Avenir Ensemble (Future Together, mostly dissidents from RPCR), two from pro-independence UNI-FLNKS-Palika and one from pro-independence Union Calédonienne (one of the main components of pro-independence movement FLNKS).

Last week, the first Avenir Ensemble minister to leave the cabinet was minister for economy, Didier Leroux, who handed his resignation from the local government last Thursday.

Leroux could also be a possible contender for the next government's top post.

Crucial reconciliation

The resignations come one month after a harsh battle between Leroux (who is a founder of the currently ruling Avenir Ensemble (Future Together) party in the French Pacific territory) and other members of the party, including other co-founder and currently Speaker of the territorial Congress, Harold Martin.

Both Leroux and Martin were last month running in the French general elections for one of the two seats reserved to New Caledonia in the French Lower House.

They both lost to members of the other pro-French party, the Rassemblement-UMP, which was backed by the ruling party in metropolitan France.

The results, perceived as a setback for Avenir Ensemble, were bound to have an impact on New Caledonia's politics.

Both UMP-backed Rassemblement candidates, party leader Pierre Frogier and Gaël Yanno, who is also the deputy mayor of the capital Nouméa, were elected.

Since then, Rassemblement-UMP and Avenir Ensemble, through their veteran politicians Frogier and Martin, have initiated reconciliation talks in Paris, under the auspices of the French metropolitan government and its assistant minister for overseas, Christian Estrosi.

The eventual aim is to come up with a so-called "majority pact" that would set the rules for a working relationship between the two parties, after three years of open war.

The majority pact would affect not only government portfolios, but also key positions in public companies, government and public entities.

Last week, Avenir Ensemble, during a party executive meeting, endorsed in principle the reconciliation move and appointed Leroux, Martin and Southern Province President Philippe Gomès as a negotiating team.


New Caledonia's multi-party government makeup is based on the principle of "collegiality", power-sharing and consensus decision-making.

The guiding principles stem from New Caledonia's Nouméa Accord signed in 1998 with the French government.

The pact also paves the way for a path to self-determination, for which crucial decisions are scheduled to be made between 2013 and 2018.

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