Nationalists Prevail in Local Election in France's Corsica

(Bloomberg) -- A coalition of movements pushing for greater autonomy for Corsica looks likely to dominate a newly constituted assembly on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, returns from the first round of voting on Sunday show.

Pe a Corsica, or “For Corsica” in the local dialect, had 45.4 percent of the vote, according to returns from the Interior Ministry. A center-right regional list, or slate, of candidates followed with 15 percent. A list linked to the center-right Republicans opposition party had 12.8 percent, and the list linked to the national ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron had 11.3 percent.

Nationalists Prevail in Local Election in France's Corsica

One of Pe a Corsica’s joint leaders Monday ruled out pushing for full independence, saying: “It’s not the issue right now.” In an interview with Europe1, Gilles Simeoni said “the Catalan model is not transferable to Corsica,” referring to the Spanish region that’s in a standoff with Madrid after holding a referendum on independence.

The special Corsican election was held because two separate departmental legislatures and a regional assembly are being merged into a single assembly for the island of about 320,000 inhabitants. That means there are no direct comparisons with previous elections.

Lists of candidates receiving more than 7 percent in Sunday’s vote advance to a decisive second round on Dec. 10, in which 63 seats will be allocated according to a proportional system. Sunday’s election came a day after heavy snowfall cut off roads and electricity to some mountain villages, potentially keeping some voters away. Turnout was 52.2 percent.

Nationalist Movement

Pe a Corsica is a joint list of candidates formed by Simeoni and Jean-Guy Talamoni, two historic leaders of the Corsican nationalist movement. Both men have in the past pushed for full independence for the island. Talamoni was in Barcelona in October during Catalonia’s independence referendum, where he publicly supported local separatists.

But they’ve said residents of Corsica aren’t yet ready to separate from France. Instead, their platform calls for negotiating with Paris to transfer greater control over spending, zoning and education to the regional government -- along the lines of the autonomy held by the Italian islands of Sardinia, which sits directly to the south, and Sicily.

A major issue for Corsican nationalists is creating a status of local residency, with priority for owning or renting property on an island where demand for vacation homes has priced out many locals. It’s not clear whether such a status would comply with the French constitution’s insistence on equality between all French citizens.

“We want to open up negotiations with France,” Simeoni said on Europe1. “We want to facilitate access to property, especially for the young and the poor, and that passes through a status of resident.”

U Rinnovu, a list of candidates that pushed for immediate independence, won 6.7% and was eliminated from the second round.

Corsica was ceded to France in 1768 after 250 years of being ruled by the Italian city state of Genoa. The local language is closer to Italian than French.

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