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There are questions what the US presidential debate and French election may mean for the Pacific.

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert


What the US and French elections could mean for the Pacific - expert

Pacific support expected to continue post-US Election, as New Caledonia's future uncertain amid French political shifts.

An international relations expert says Pacific nations could expect continued support and attention from the United States regardless of how the election goes, but warns it may be a different story for New Caledonia.

This comes after the first US Presidential debate was held at the weekend, with many panning the performance of incumbent Democrat Joe Biden.

Geopolitical analyst Geoffrey Miller described the 90 minute debate as “disastrous” for Biden.

“He couldn't complete answers, some of his answers were just illogical, he looked terrible on screen.

“He stood there almost motionless with his mouth open a lot of the time while Trump was speaking. He looked lifeless, he looked insipid, he looked wooden. It was a terrible performance.”

The debate has reignited questions about Biden’s age and whether he’s fit for the role, but Miller said a replacement candidate before the November election is possible, but unlikely.


“It would look chaotic in itself … Kamala Harris, the vice president, who would be the logical choice, perhaps, to take over from Joe Biden, she has her own problems, she's not any more popular than Joe Biden, really.

“Gavin Newsom, governor of California, is talked about, but he's from California, which is a solidly blue democratic state these days.

“If you did have a Barack Obama-like figure, perhaps waiting in the wings you could say, well, it's obvious we would do much better … there just isn't someone like that, and that's probably Joe Biden's best card to play.”


Biden and the Pacific

The current Biden administration has made efforts to connect with Pacific leaders at two summit meetings held at the White House, along with funding promises of US$7.2 billion dollars including aid programmes, embassies, fisheries management, and climate change support.

Speaking to William Terite on Pacific Mornings, Miller said that support is likely to continue if Donald Trump is re-elected, but for different reasons.

“If Donald Trump did win the White House again, I think he would continue in large part with the policies, not because he cares about the Pacific - I don't think he does - but he does care about this wider competition with China, and he would probably see the Pacific as ideal pawns in this game.

“In all likelihood, probably the current policy settings towards the Pacific would continue. That includes more visits, greater attention on the Pacific and more money fundamentally.”

What about New Caledonia?

There are fears what the National Assembly election in France will mean for ongoing tensions in New Caledonia.

Votes for the French parliament started yesterday and the next round will be on Sunday. New Caledonia has 18 candidates running for two representative seats in the 577-seat French National Assembly.

Voter turnout is higher than usual, and early reports show support has swung towards the National Rally party, who are currently at 36 per cent, with the current Macron Alliance sitting third place at 19.5 per cent.

While the presidential elections aren’t until 2027, Miller said changes in the national assembly could have ramifications for proposed changes to the French constitution which triggered deadly riots in Noumea.

“That whole process was suspended by Emmanuel Macron a few weeks ago, and I think there will be a rethink of that as these new legislative election results could potentially change the dynamics of that process.

“Marine Le Pen, she's been very clear that New Caledonia is part of France, and a right leaning leader or far right leader as she is and her party, is just going to have less truck perhaps with any protest, they're going to take a harder line position.”

The proposed changes would give French nationals who have lived in New Caledonia for more than ten years the right to vote in local elections.

Miller said that issue hasn’t gone away, but if the election continues to favour the National Rally party, there’s still room for diplomacy.

“They have to work with Emmanuel Macron the president on this, the president has a good deal of sway over these kinds of issues foreign policy issues, so in the medium term, perhaps that amendment gets put back on the table.

“When it does, maybe we will see a rekindling of that unrest. But you hope that, you know, there are some ongoing negotiations and talks to try and resolve this situation.”

Watch the full interview on Pacific Mornings with Geoffrey Miller: