New Caledonia elects pro-independence candidate in French elections

The restive French Pacific territory of New Caledonia has elected a pro-independence indigenous Kanak candidate to France’s parliament – the first since 1986 – in a move that could change the dynamic of negotiations over independence after weeks of deadly unrest.

New Caledonia has two seats in France’s National Assembly.

Emmanuel Tjibaou, 48, won the second constituency in the rural north of the territory, beating loyalist candidate Alcide Ponga by 13,404 votes.

The first constituency, which includes the capital Noumea, was won by right-wing pro-France candidate Nicolas Metzdorf on 52.41 percent.

Metzdorf beat the pro-independence candidate Omayra Naisseline, although the margin was lower than expected.

Turnout on the archipelago was 71.35 percent – the highest in legislative elections since 1981.

Son of key independence leader

Tjibaou becomes the first pro-independence to win a seat in the national assembly since 1986.

While he is new to party politics, he has held several important positions in New Caledonia’s cultural sphere and directed the Agency for the Development of Kanak Culture – a public body set up to promote the culture of the territory's indigenous people.

He is the son of a well-known Kanak independence leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who was assassinated in 1989.

Tjibaou's father had signed the 1988 Matignon Accords with mainland France, bringing a period of peace to the archipelago after four years of near civil war.

Tjibaou’s brother Joël was charged and remanded in custody in June for his alleged role in the riots.


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