In New Caledonia, the government still does not have a president

Members of the collegiate government of New Caledonia failed Tuesday for the second time to elect a president for lack of agreement between the separatists, who have the majority, while a third referendum on independence is looming by 2022, AFP noted.

The scenario of the first attempt on February 17 was repeated and saw the two currents of the independence party Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) oppose each other.

The Caledonian Union presented Samuel Hnépeune, until then president of Medef NC, and the National Union for Independence (UNI) proposed Louis Mapou, current leader of the UNI-FLNKS group to Congress.

Each of them received 3 votes out of 11 in this ballot, which requires an absolute majority.

On the loyalist side, Thierry Santa (Confident future, AEC), outgoing president, was also a candidate and obtained 4 votes.

The only member of the government from the other non-independence party, Calédonie ensemble (center right), voted white.

“We take the time for discussion to try to find the best balance. (…) The question of the presidency is obviously important but there is also what we are going to do in the government”, declared Gilbert Tyuinénon, member government, (UC-FLNKS), at the end of the ballot.

Although qualified as “correct and positive” by Mr. Tyuiénon, the negotiations see two lines strongly opposed to the FLNKS: that of the UC presented “as open and intended to reassure” and that of the UNI “which refuses to roll out the red carpet to employers “and anchor more to the left.

– “Decisive moment” –

This is the first time since the start of the Nouméa Accord (1998), which organizes the progressive decolonization of the archipelago, that the separatists have a majority within the executive.

“This is a decisive moment in history and it is normal that we discuss. We have real challenges to take up which must make it possible to show that what we propose is viable”, declared to AFP the candidate of UNI-FLNKS Louis Mapou. “It’s slow and heavy, but it’s moving forward,” he added.

One of the major challenges for the separatists is indeed the organization of the third and final referendum on independence, which will close the Nouméa agreement, and should be held by September 2022.

The first two, November 4, 2018 and October 4, 2020, were won by supporters of retention in the Republic with 56.7% of the vote, then only 53.3%.

While New Caledonia is facing a budget and social accounts crisis, due to the setbacks in the nickel industry and the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, loyalists deplored this blockage.

“All that for that. To have brought down the government in haste (…), to break the institutional balance which is fragile in this final stretch of the Nouméa agreement and all this to the detriment of the daily life of Caledonians “, tackled Isabelle Champmoreau, member of the government in particular in charge of education (AEC, non-independence).

If on March 31 the budget of the community is not voted, it will be put under the supervision of the State.

No date has been announced for a new summons of the government by the high commissioner in an attempt to elect the president.

– Shared solution –

The FLNKS brought down the government of Thierry Santa on February 2 with the aim of halting the process of buying the nickel plant of the Brazilian Vale from a consortium with the Swiss trader Trafigura, to which it is firmly opposed.

For two weeks, discussions have been underway between the Southern Province, led by the loyalists, the FLNKS and the collective opposed to the “Trafigura offer”, as well as with the Vale group and the Ministry of the Economy. According to corroborating sources, a shared solution could soon emerge.

Foreign Minister Sébastien Lecornu on Sunday called on the island’s elected officials in a rostrum to prepare what will follow the Noumea agreement, regardless of the outcome of the next referendum.

“If, three times, New Caledonia confirmed its wish to remain French, it would then be appropriate to give it a new status in the Republic,” said the minister.

“Conversely, dry independence, without preparation, appears insurmountable. Its human, social and economic consequences would undoubtedly be disastrous”, he warned.

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