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Corsicans vote to elect new regional assembly

UPDATED: Sun., Dec. 10, 2017

Associated Press

PARIS – Corsican nationalists swept elections Sunday on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica for a new regional assembly, crushing President Emmanuel Macron’s young centrist movement and traditional parties.

The nationalists on the once-restive island of 320,000 people want more autonomy from Paris but unlike those in the nearby Spanish region of Catalonia, they aren’t seeking full independence – yet.

In what French media called an unprecedented score, a coalition of moderate and harder-line nationalists won 56.5 percent of the vote in Sunday’s second-round election, according to figures from the Interior Ministry. Local media showed nationalists sing Corsican songs and celebrating in the streets after the results were announced.

The nationalist coalition, which also won the most votes in the first round a week ago, will have 41 of the 63 seats in the new assembly, which takes office Jan. 1 after a territorial reform replacing previous assemblies. Candidates from Macron’s Republic on the Move! party won just six seats.

On the ballot were nationalist issues such as amnesty for political prisoners, the recognition of Corsican as the official language alongside French and protections for locals who want to buy real estate on the popular destination that the French refer to as the “Island of Beauty,” which is also rich in history and famed as the birthplace of Napoleon.

The nationalists formed an alliance between the more popular, moderate group led by Gilles Simeoni, who wants devolved power, and a fiery movement led by Jean-Guy Talamoni, who aims to eventually get full autonomy for Corsica, though not immediately.

The vote came a day after French Basques marched through Paris demanding the release of fellow Basques held in prisons around the country for separatist activity.

Far away in the South Pacific, the French territory of New Caledonia is preparing for a referendum on self-rule next year.

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