Corsican Nationalists Win Control of Island's Assembly

(Bloomberg) -- A coalition of movements pushing for greater autonomy for Corsica will dominate a newly constituted assembly on the French Mediterranean island, giving it the legitimacy to push Paris for changes to the island’s status.

Pe a Corsica, or “For Corsica” in the local dialect, won 56.5 percent of the vote in Sunday’s vote and will hold 41 of the 63 seats, according to final results from the Interior Ministry. The victory was expected after its slate of candidates won just short of a majority in the first round of voting a week ago.

Lists linked to President Emmanuel Macron’s party and to the center-right opposition will hold six seats each. Turnout was 52.5 percent.

“The circumstances have never been better for a political settlement of the Corsican issue,” Gilles Simeoni, one of the two main leaders of Pe a Corsica, said in an interview with Le Monde after the election. “The Corsicans have massively signaled to the state that the moment to open a genuine dialog has come.”

Unlike the separatists in Catalonia, Pe a Corsica has ruled out pushing for full independence but wants to negotiate with the national government in Paris to establish 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 unclear whether such a status would comply with the French constitution’s insistence on equality among all French citizens. The coalition also wants official recognition of the Corsican language and amnesty for what it says are political prisoners but the national government considers terrorists.

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.

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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