4 Apr 2011

New Caledonia's new Congress president says no election next week

5:29 am on 4 April 2011

New Caledonia's new Congress president, Roch Wamytan, has confirmed that no government election will be called next week after last Friday's fourth government collapse in less than two months.

Mr Wamytan says the decision to put off an extraordinary Congress sitting is in line with a vote by more than three fifths of its members.

The move is in apparent defiance of the electoral law, under which a single minister's resignation from the collegial government automatically triggers a fresh election within the Congress within two weeks.

The last three resignations were triggered by three different ministers of the Caledonia Together Party, which wants France to dissolve the three provincial assemblies and call an early general election.

The political crisis was sparked by a dispute over which flag should be used as the territory is being decolonised.

Amid plans for rival demonstrations over the flag issue last Saturday, the French high commission intervened and banned both rallies for fear of disorder.

The Caledonia Together Party has challenged the process, including the legality of the sitting last Friday, which saw Mr Wamytan's election.

Harold Martin continues as caretaker President.