Mayotte becomes 101st French department amid confusion

31st March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Indian Ocean archipelago of Mayotte formally became France's 101st department Thursday amid political confusion, boycotts and changes of heart.

It had been planned that Mayotte, which is geographically linked to the Comoros Islands, would take its place in the family of French departments when the newly-elected departmental assembly met for the first time after elections on March 20 and 27.

But only 11 of the 19 councillors elected Sunday tuned up for the historic occasion. Those belonging to President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP party and their centre-right allies stayed away, though they gave no reason.

In a noisy session the UMP president of the assembly, won by the left in the recent elections, postponed the vote on departmental status of the island until Sunday and quit the chamber.

The postponement seemed inevitable once the French Overseas Minister Marie-Luce Penchard, on her way to Mayotte, said she would not be coming until Sunday.

But the government in Paris had a change of heart and said that the issue of the presence of a quorum need not interfere with the process and so Mayotte could become the 101st department.

© 2011 AFP

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