France is facing new trouble after a separatist government took power on the island of Corsica, including many members who want full independence.
While the world’s media focused on the Front National’s performance in last week’s regional elections, Corsican nationalists delivered a shock result on the island, with a coalition of moderates and separatists taking power for the first time.
The Times reports that opposition parties are now demanding President François Hollande take action, especially against Jean-Guy Talamoni, who was sworn in as president of the Corsican regional assembly last week.
Mr Talamoni, who leads the radical pro-independence Corsica Libra party, spoke only Corsican and swore on a revolutionary text when he took office. French law dictates that all public business must be conducted in French.
“In voting for the nationalists, the Corsican people have said that Corsica is not a piece of another country but a nation,” he said. “No one will be able to oppose the people’s will.”
His party is in coalition with more moderate nationalists who want greater autonomy rather than full independence, led by the mayor of the city of Bastia, Gilles Simeoni (pictured above).
The island has in recent decades witnessed a bloody terror campaign by nationalist group the Corsica Liberation Front (CLF), but a permanent ceasefire announced 17 months ago has allowed nationalism to go mainstream.
Mr Talamoni has close links to the CLF’s political wing and has previously called for the release of “political prisoners”. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls rejected the call, however, saying they were nothing more than common law criminals.
Florian Philippot, deputy leader of the Front National, has also slammed Mr Talamoni, calling his address to the Corsican assembly an “anti-republican, anti-national act”. He called on President Hollande to “ring the bell to end playtime” on the island.
This will be the first time Corsica has been governed by nationalists since France annexed the island in 1768. Losing the island — which is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte — would be a massive psychological blow to the French Republic.