French elections: First round of Pacific results show polarisation

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First round provisional results in New Caledonia in the French snap elections
First round provisional results in New Caledonia in the French snap elections yesterday . . . confirmed split between the pro-independence and the pro-France (loyalists) candidates. Image: KAS

By Patrick Decloitre, RNZ Pacific correspondent French Pacific desk

French Pacific results for the first round of French national snap elections yesterday showed a firm radicalisation, especially in the case of New Caledonia.

In both of New Caledonia’s constituencies, the second round will look like a showdown between pro-independence and pro-France contestants.

The French Pacific entity has been gripped by ongoing riots, arson and destruction since mid-May 2024.

Local outcomes of the national polls have confirmed a block-to-block, confrontational logic, between the most radical components of the opposing camps, the pro-independence and the pro-France (loyalists).

Pro-France leader Nicolas Metzdorf, who is a staunch advocate of the still-unimplemented controversial constitutional reform that is perceived to marginalise indigenous Kanaks’ vote and therefore sparked the current unrest in the French Pacific territory, obtained 39.81 percent of the votes in New Caledonia’s 1st constituency.

In the capital Nouméa, which has been suffering massive damage from the riots, he even received the support of 53.64 percent of the voters.

Also vying for the seat in the French National Assembly, the other candidate qualifying for the second round of vote (on Sunday 7 July) is pro-independence Omayra Naisseline, who belongs to Union Calédonienne, perceived as a hard-line component of the pro-independence platform FLNKS.

She obtained 36.34 percent of the votes.

Outgoing MP Philippe Dunoyer, a moderate pro-France politician, is now out of the race after collecting only 10.33 percent of the votes.

For New Caledonia’s second constituency, pro-independence Emmanuel Tjibaou topped the poll with an impressive 44.06 percent of the votes.

Île-des-Pins voting on pollng day yesterday
Île-des-Pins voting on pollng day yesterday in the first round of the French snap elections. Image: NC la 1ère TV screenshot/RNZ

Tjibaou is the son of emblematic Kanak pro-independence leader Jean-Marie Tjibaou, a dominant figure who signed the Matignon-Oudinot Accord in 1988 with pro-France leader Jacques Lafleur, ending half a decade of civil war over the Kanak pro-independence cause.

In 1989, Tjibaou was assassinated by a hard-line member of his own movement.

Second to Tjibaou is Alcide Ponga, also an indigenous Kanak who was recently elected president of the pro-France Rassemblement-Les républicains party (36.18 percent).

Another candidate from the Eveil Océanien (mostly supported by the Wallisian community in New Caledonia), Milakulo Tukumuli, came third with 11.92 percent but does not qualify to contest in the second round.

In New Caledonia, polling on Sunday took place under heavy security and at least one incident was reported in Houaïlou, where car wrecks were placed in front of the polling stations, barring access to voters.

However, participation was very high on Sunday: 60.02 percent of the registered voters turned out, which is almost twice as much as the recorded rate at the previous general elections in 2022 (32.51 percent).

New Caledonia's four remaning contestants for the second round of French snap elections on 7 July are Nicolas Metzdorf, Emmanuel Tjibaou, Omayra Naisseline and Alcide Ponga.
New Caledonia’s four remaining contestants for the run-off round of French snap elections next Sunday, July 7 are Nicolas Metzdorf (clockwise from top left), Emmanuel Tjibaou, Omayra Naisseline and Alcide Ponga. Image: NC la 1ère TV

New Caledonia’s four remaining contestants for the run-off round of French snap elections next Sunday, July 7 are Nicolas Metzdorf (clockwise from top left), Emmanuel Tjibaou, Omayra Naisseline and Alcide Ponga. Image: NC la 1ère TV

French Polynesia
In French Polynesia (three constituencies), the stakes were quite different — all three sitting MPs were pro-independence after the previous French general elections in 2022.

Candidates for the ruling Tavini Huiraatira, for this first round of polls, managed to make it to the second round, like Steve Chailloux (second constituency, 41.61 percent) or Mereana Reid-Arbelot (third constituency, 42.71 percent) who will still have to fight in the second round to retain her seat in the French National Assembly against pro-autonomy Pascale Haiti (41.08 percent), who is the wife of long-time pro-France former president Gaston Flosse).

Chailloux, however, did not fare so well as his direct opponent, pro-autonomy platform and A Here ia Porinetia leader Nicole Sanquer, who collected 49.62 percent of the votes.

But those parties opposing independence, locally known as the “pro-autonomy”, had fielded their candidates under a common platform.

This is the case for Moerani Frébault, from the Marquesas Islands, who managed to secure 53.90 percent of the votes and is therefore declared winner without having to contest the second round.

His victory ejected the pro-independence outgoing MP Tematai Le Gayic (Tavini party, 1st constituency), even though he had collected 36.3 percent of the votes.

Wallis and Futuna
Incumbent MP Mikaele Seo (Renaissance, French President Macron’s party) breezes through against the other three contestants and obtained 61 percent of the votes and therefore is directly elected as a result of the first round for the seat at the Paris National Assembly.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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