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New Caledonia Congress to elect new government
02:47 am GMT+12, 17/02/2021, New Caledonia

New Caledonia independence parties look set to hold a majority in the territory's new government, following the collapse of the power-sharing body led by conservative President Thierry Santa.
 
Five members of the administration, representing the pro-independence groups UC-FLNKS and UNI, the Union nationale pour l'indépendance, resigned earlier this month, as the government debated its COVID-19 impacted budget and the future of nickel mining in the French territory.
 
Under the 1998 Noumea Accord, which came after bouts of violence over the issue of independence, New Caledonia is run by a power sharing government made up of French loyalists and pro-independence politicians.
 
Later today, the Congress of New Caledonia will elect 11 new members.
 
Journalist and Pacific watcher Nic Maclellan said today's vote will likely see a major transformation for the French Pacific territory.
 
“For the first time since 1999, the independence movement is looking to gain a majority in the incoming government,” he said.
 
Tensions over the sale of the Goro nickel mine have inflamed relations in recent months between pro-French loyalists and Indigenous Kanaks.
 
The government breakdown also came just two months after the territory held a largely peaceful referendum on independence from France, which saw 53.26 per cent of people vote 'no' against and 46.74 per cent voted 'yes' for independence.
 
The third and final independence vote is expected in 2022.
 
New Caledonia is also facing an unprecedented budget crisis as a result of the pandemic and the closure of borders has had a huge impact on its tourism-dependent economy.
 
Maclellan said the territory could be at a major turning point.
 
“To have a government lead by a pro-independence President with a majority supporting a change in politics, an economy and society depending on what side of the fence you're on. People are either anxious or hopeful that this is a really fundamental transformation,” he said.

SOURCE: ABC/PACNEWS


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