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Pacific News Minute: Impasse As New Caledonia Fails To Elect New President

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A caretaker government remains in charge of the French overseas territory of New Caledonia after a new council failed to agree on who should be president. There are new problems and new players, but one overriding old problem: sovereignty.

The eleven members of New Caledonia’s council of ministers were chosen on the basis of the strength of their parties in the newly elected congress. Between them, two pro-independence parties got five seats, two loyalist parties got six, but that apparently simple arithmetic then broke down. 

The anti-independence majority includes five members of a new coalition called Future with Confidence, and a single representative of Caledonia Together.

They agree that the most important thing is to maintain loyalists in power as New Caledonia struggles through a series of referenda on sovereignty. But they disagree on the distribution of offices in the loyalist stronghold of the Southern Province.

Phillippe Germain of Caledonia Together abstained in the voting. The five-five tie means that the previous government remains as a caretaker, and that includes the old president, one Phillippe Germain.

Another new player is the Pacific Awakening party, which mostly represents immigrants from another French territory, Wallis and Futuna. Its small fraction of the vote left it in the position of kingmaker. Pacific Awakening voted with pro-independence parties to elect a new leader in congress, but, after infighting with a Wallisian faction in the pro-independence bloc, Pacific Awakening switched sides in the vote for president.

TheFrench High Commission will summon the eleven ministersfor another vote within two weeks. A similar deadlock after the last election, five years ago, took months to resolve.

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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