A prominent pro-France leader in New Caledonia, Sonia Backès, has resigned from the French government after a resounding defeat at France’s Senatorial elections four days ago.

In July 2022, Backès, a member of French President Macron’s Renaissance party, had been appointed assistant minister for Citizenship in French Prime minister Elisabeth Borne’s government.

She is also President of New Caledonia’s affluent Southern Province and a leading figure within New Caledonia’s pro-France camp.

At the Senatorial poll on Sunday, she was vying for one of the two seats reserved for New Caledonia, but lost to Robert Xowie, a pro-independence indigenous Kanak leader from the FLNKS (Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front) who is also the Mayor of Lifou in New Caledonia’s Loyalty Islands group.

Xowie is the first ever pro-independence leader to be elected in the French Senate.

Backès’ setback had since fuelled speculations that she would have to resign.

Since her appointment to a ministerial position, New Caledonia’s pro-independence movement had raised eyebrows on a possible conflict of interest and the necessary impartiality of the French government in view of future talks about the French Pacific entity’s political future.

On Wednesday in Paris, she is reported to have tendered her resignation to the French President, who is understood to have accepted it, according to French media reports.

The French Senate elections, last weekend, were a double blow for the pro-French camp in New Caledonia: for the other contested seat, another pro-French candidate, Georges Naturel, mayor of the small town of Dumbéa took the seat even though his candidacy was not endorsed by his own political party, Les Républicains (LR).

Incumbent Pierre Frogier, 72, a veteran politician in New Caledonia, who was bidding for another mandate, also lost.

He has since publicly announced this defeat marked “the end of (his) public life” which spanned half a century.

Frogier is one of the few remaining politicians in New Caledonia who had signed both the Matignon-Oudinot Accord (in 1988, marking the end of half a decade of a bloody civil war) and the Nouméa Accord ten years later, in 1998, setting the roadmap for a gradual process of enlarged autonomy and a transfer of powers from France to New Caledonia.