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Pacific News Minute: Low Turnout in French Pacific Territories After Call For Boycott

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

After the first round of voting in France's Presidential election on Sunday, Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen emerged to face off against each other next month. Neither finished first in New Caledonia or French Polynesia. More details from Neal Conan in today's Pacific News Minute.

François Fillon had a tough day on Sunday; the standard bearer of the center right Republicans had once been considered a shoo-in to be the next president of France. Instead, his campaign bogged down in corruption allegations. Even with a bit of a late surge, he finished a disappointing third, but Fillon emerged as the top voter getter in both French Polynesia and New Caledonia.

The real story, though, may have been the turnout, just 39 percent in French Polynesia and 49 percent in New Caledonia. Pro-Independence parties in both territories asked their supporters to boycott the presidential election. That doesn't account for all the missing voters by any means, 30 percent failed to vote across the rest of France...but it still sends a message.

Anti-Independence voters in both territories typically support the center right as the party most likely to maintain the status quo and Fillon's victory in French Polynesia is particularly noteworthy, because he was not endorsed by any of the local parties.

Newcomer Emmanuel Macron got less that 15 percent of the vote, while nationalist Marine Le Pen finished a strong second, and is now expected to do well in the second round next month. An anomalous result came in from the tiny territory of Wallis and Futuna, where Macron won the most votes and Le Pen cam in a distant fourth.

Whoever wins the runoff in May, will oversee an independence referendum in New Caledonia next year.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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