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Overseas French reject autonomy
French island of Martinique and French Guiana say no to more autonomy from France.
Last Modified: 11 Jan 2010 14:01 GMT
Turnout was 59 per cent in Martinique and 48 per cent in French Guiana [AFP]

Voters in the French Caribbean exclaves of Martinique and French Guiana have rejected a proposal for local government to have more autonomy from France.

The two France overseas departments held referendums on Sunday that would have given them greater say in managing their own affairs.

But preliminary results in Martinique indicate 80 per cent of voters rejected the proposal while in French Guiana 70 per cent were against the change, election officials said.

Turnout was about 59 per cent in Martinique and 48 per cent in French Guiana.

The ballot in each of the two Caribbean departments called for giving local government more administrative freedoms, with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, to determine the extent of the autonomy.

'Not ready'

Jaqueline Manger, a Martinique resident who voted against the proposal, said she "would like a change, but I don't think we are ready yet".

"I don't trust the people who lead the regional council and the general council,'' she said, referring to the local bodies that govern Martinique.

The votes were held a year after the two enclaves, along with the Indian Ocean island of La Reunion were rocked by strikes and rioting over low wages and high prices.

Sarkozy proposed holding the referendums when he travelled to Martinique in June as part of a drive to mend ties following the strike which degenerated into weeks of rioting at the start of 2009.

Martinique, which has around 400,000 residents, and French Guiana, a vast territory with some 200,000 residents, continue to face social problems including high unemployment and low wages.

Source:
Agencies
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