Nationalists in Corsica demand more freedoms after election gains

Nationalists seeking greater autonomy for France's Corsica on Monday ruled out an imminent independence bid but demanded greater freedoms for the island after winning the first round of regional elections.

Nationalists in Corsica demand more freedoms after election gains
Photo: AFP

The governing Pe a Corsica (For Corsica) alliance, which groups the pro-autonomy Femu a Corsica (Let's Make Corsica) and pro-independence Corsica Libera (Free Corsica), won 45.36 percent of the vote in Sunday's election to the regional assembly.

Local rightwing party La Voie de l'Avenir (Future Path) came second with 14.97 percent, ahead of France's main opposition conservative Republicans in third with 12.77 percent.
President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Republic on the Move (LREM), which has failed to make inroads on the Mediterranean island of 330,000 people, trailed in fourth with 11.26 percent.
The result puts the nationalists on course for a thumping victory in the second and final round of voting on December 10, two years after their breakthrough win in regional elections.
Candidate for the Pe a Corsica nationalist party Jean Guy Talamoni. Photo: AFP   
“I think that today Corsica is sending a very strong signal to Paris and that a large majority is saying: we want peace, we want democracy, we want to build an emancipated island,” Femu a Corsica's leader Gilles Simeoni declared, calling it “a democratic tidal wave”.
The leader of Corsica Libera, Jean-Guy Talamoni, said that the result surpassed the nationalists' own expectations and showed that “for Corsicans, Corsica is a nation”.
Autonomy, not independence
Both men however ruled out an imminent bid for independence.
“The question of independence is not on the cards today,” Simeoni, whose party is dominant in the alliance, told France's Europe 1 radio. “We want autonomous status,” he added.
Talamoni, who has been nicknamed Corsica's Puigdemont after Catalonia's separatist leader Carles Puigdemont, said the question of independence would only come up “in 10 or 15 years.”
“If a majority of Corsicans want (independence), in 10 or 15 years, nobody will be able to oppose it,” he told France Inter radio.
Candidate for the Pe a Corsica nationalist party Gilles Simeoni. Photo: AFP
Corsica, a mountainous island with its own language and special administrative status, has had an at times troubled relationship with the wealthier mainland.
The separatist National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) waged a nearly four-decade bombing campaign targeting mainly state infrastructure before announcing a ceasefire in 2014.
The worst nationalist attack claimed the life of France's top official on the island, Claude Erignac, who was assassinated in 1998.
The situation has stabilised over the past decade.
In June 2014, the FLNC announced a permanent ceasefire, in favour of a political process.


‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.