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POLITICS

Macron hails New Caledonia rejecting independence

French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday that "a period of transition" would begin for New Caledonia after voters overwhelmingly rejected independence.

French President Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron addresses to the nation. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

“A period of transition is beginning. Free from the binary choice of ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, we must now build a common project, while recognising and respecting the dignity of everyone,” the head of state said in a recorded message.

He said that the country could be “proud” of the process designed to settle the status of the islands under which residents were asked in three separate referendums if they wished to break away from France.

READ ALSO: New Caledonia votes overwhelmingly to remain French

“Tonight France is more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay part of it,” Macron added.

With all ballots counted, 96.49 percent were against independence, while only 3.51 percent were in favour, with turn-out a mere 43.90 percent, results from the islands’ high commission showed.

Pro-independence campaigners boycotted the vote, saying they wanted it postponed to September because “a fair campaign” was impossible with high coronavirus infection numbers.

Observers say the result could exacerbate ethnic tensions, with the poorer indigenous Kanak community generally favouring independence over the wealthier white community.

Macron made no direct mention of the boycott, but he admitted that voters were “profoundly divided” and he expressed condolences to “all those who have lost a loved one”.

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POLITICS

Why a French minister’s Paris apartment led to her quitting the government

A senior member of Emmanuel Macron's government has resigned after being accused of undervaluing her Paris apartment by the French financial transparency watchdog.

Why a French minister's Paris apartment led to her quitting the government

The minister for relations with local authorities, Caroline Cayeux, has resigned after the France’s “high authority for transparency in public life” (HATVP) deemed that she had “undervalued” her assets in an evaluation of her wealth.

After meeting with the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and at the approval of President Emmanuel Macron, Cayeux’s resignation was made official on Monday. Her position will be taken over by Dominique Faure, the current Secretary of State for Rural Affairs.

In a statement on Twitter, Cayeux said that she had presented her resignation to the President and Prime Minister on Sunday.

One of Cayeux’s advisers told Le Monde that “She resigned because she was suspected of something false. After experiencing what happened in July, she did not want to go through all that again.”

Wealth declarations

French politicians including ministers and presidential candidates are required to submit information to the HATVP giving a full list of all wealth and assets held by themselves and their spouse, if they are married.

The controversy for Cayeux refers to two properties  – one Paris apartment in a Haussmanian building, 500 square metres in size and located near the Eiffel Tower at the Place de l’Alma, according to Le Courrier Picard. Cayeux shares the property with her sister, though it is 99 percent under her own name, and the sisters inherited it.

The second property, estimated to be worth at least €200,000, is a farm near Beauvais in the greater Paris region where Cayeux reportedly enjoys collecting draft horses, some of which have taken part in the famous “Route du Poisson” (a competitive horse-driving event between Boulogne-sur-Mer and Paris in northern France).

What next?

The HATVP reportedly believes that Cayeuc under-valued both properties on her declaration of wealth, although there is no suggestion that she omitted any other assets.

The watchdog has not made any further statements on the subject, and will not publish any other communications prior to Thursday, when the results of their examination into all ministers’ assets are set be published on the website.

However, Cayeux’s will not be published, as “according to the law, the declarations of a member of the government who has left office can no longer be made public by the High Authority.”

According to Le Courrier Picard, the former minister, a multimillionaire, has been among elected officials who expressed “opposition to the online publication of [ministers’] assets.”

She is also not the first of President Emmanuel Macron’s ministers to run into issues over declared wealth. Environment Minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher has recently become the subject of a new investigation by the HATVP.

READ MORE: Explained: Why is France’s environment minister facing a probe over shares?

Pannier-Runacher allegedly did not disclose conflicts of interest regarding her children’s shares in a company created by their grandfather as an early-inheritance scheme. 

What next for Cayeaux

Cayeux, 74, was only appointed a minister in the Macron government in the summer of 2022 and at that time more than 100 public officials signed an open letter denouncing her appointment.

This was due to her vocal opposition to same-sex marriage in 2013 and previous statements saying that it would “[go] against nature”.

She made things worse for herself when she tried to defend herself by saying she had good friends among “those people” – a statement that prompted angry denunciations even from her own cabinet colleagues. 

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