1 Apr 2011

New Caledonia chooses pro-independence Congress President

9:38 pm on 1 April 2011

New Caledonia's Congress has elected the veteran pro-independence politician, Roch Wamytan, as its new president.

Mr Wamytan was chosen by 32 of the 35 members present - in a sitting which two parties boycotted after deeming it to be illegal.

He is the first pro-independence member to make it to the territorial legislature's top in 34 years.

Mr Wamytan's election came just hours after the anti-independence Caledonia Together Party, led by Philippe Gomes, brought down the collegial government for a third time in a month.

In an extraordinary session of the Congress, the party again withdrew from the administration the moment it was elected.

Under the electoral system, a single minister's resignation automatically triggers a fresh election within the Congress which has to be performed within two weeks.

This means that the caretaker administration of Harold Martin will continue in office.

In February, the pro-independence Caledonian Union quit the two-year old administration led by Mr Gomes allegedly over the choice of flag.