Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The Utter Mess in New Caledonia

August 10th, 2011 · No Comments

British Prime Minister David Cameron can take some small measure of solace in the fact that his government is the only one in Europe to be vexed by violent protestors. His French counterparts are suffering through similar civil unrest, though with an asterisk: the nation’s pocket of trouble is located several thousand miles away from Paris, in the overseas department of New Caledonia.

For those who aren’t entirely up-to-date on their Melanesian politics, New Caledonia’s airport is currently being blockaded by protestors who object to a recent increase in the Air Caledonie’s airfares—a huge deal in a place so isolated from the outside world. The situation has gotten bad enough that the French minister in charge of the country’s overseas departments has returned to Paris from her August holiday—no mean gesture in a nation where end-of-summer vacations are generally considered sacred.

There is, alas, absolutely nothing surprising about the situation in New Caledonia, a place that—like a certain AA+ superpower—suffers from total political dysfunction rooted in ideological inflexibility. I actually meant to post about this topic two months ago, when the New Caledonia narrowly averted its fifth government collapse of 2011. Since then, of course, the gridlock between Left and Right has only grown worse—and for the most idiotic of reasons:

The French supreme court has annulled last April’s election of New Caledonia’s Congress president, Roch Wamytan.

The court in Paris upheld a complaint by the Caledonia Together Party leader Philippe Gomes, who claimed that the process of choosing Mr Wamytan was in breach of the rules.
In a sitting which two parties boycotted after deeming it to be illegal, Mr Wamytan was chosen by 32 of the 35 members present.

A majority, however, decided to ignore the official closure of the session by the Congress vice-president and proceeded with Mr Wamytan’s election.

Mr Gomes and his supporters had left the sitting after bringing down the collegial government for a third time in four weeks amid a yet unresolved dispute over which flag the territory should adopt as part of its decolonisation process.

Do I hear echoes of the whole shape-of-the-table fiasco from the negotiations to end the Vietnam War?

(Image via this exhaustive collection of airline safety cards)

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