Even if political life in New Caledonia has its own mechanisms, this is bad news for the executive: the only member of the government candidate in the senatorial elections on Sunday September 24, Sonia Backès (Renaissance) was beaten.
After this defeat, the Secretary of State for Citizenship could leave the government. In theory, the Constitution does not require a defeated minister to resign. In practice, however, it is a political custom. Bad news for Emmanuel Macron and Élisabeth Borne, because Sonia Backès is responsible for several major cross-cutting issues: post-riot management, the question of violence against elected officials, sectarian excesses and even secularism.
The two outgoing senators defeated
One of the two seats in the territory was won in the first round by Georges Naturel, 67, mayor of Dumbéa in the Greater Nouméa conurbation (Southern province). A dissident from the local party Le Rassemblement-Les Républicains, he is labeled various right-wing and had not given voting instructions for the second round.
Besides Sonia Backès, the two outgoing senators were immediately eliminated: on the right Pierre Frogier (Le Rassemblement-Les Républicains, senator since 2011); in the center Gérard Poadja (Caledonia ensemble, senator since 2017). Both had called for a vote in the second round in favor of Sonia Backès. In vain: with 246 votes (44%), the president of the assembly of the Southern province was beaten by the independentist Robert Xowie (307 votes, 55%).
An elected independentist
This is the first time that a New Caledonian separatist has sat in the Senate. Mayor of Lifou, in the Loyalty Islands province, Robert Xowie, 61, is a member of the Caledonian Union, one of the two main components of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS). The Kanak party has already had an elected official at the Luxembourg Palace: Armand Ohlen from 1955 to 1959, under the Fourth Republic. But the party was autonomist at the time, since it only became independent at the end of the 1970s.
Another member of the Caledonian Union has nevertheless already sat in Parliament: Roch Pidjot, deputy from 1964 to 1986. First, when the party was autonomist, in the Christian Democratic ranks. Then, when he became an independentist, to the socialist group.
With the three deputies from the Tavini party (French Polynesia) elected in the 2022 legislative elections, the election of Robert Xowie (New Caledonia) allows the Pacific separatists to hold a total of four parliamentary seats. A record.