The unique status of New Caledonia is in between that of an independent country and a regular collectivité d'outre-mer or overseas collectivité of France. A territorial congress and government have been established, and the 1998 Nouméa Accord organized a devolution of powers. Key areas such as taxation, labor law, health and hygiene and foreign trade are already in the hands of the Congress. Further powers will supposedly be given to the Congress in the near future.
A New Caledonian "citizenship" has also been introduced: only New Caledonian "citizens" have the right to vote in the local elections. This measure has been criticized, because it creates a second-class status for French citizens living in New Caledonia who do not possess New Caledonian "citizenship" (because they settled in the territory recently). New Caledonia is also allowed to engage in international cooperation with independent countries of the Pacific Ocean. Finally, the territorial Congress is allowed to pass statutes that are contrary[further explanation needed] to French law in a certain number of areas.
On the other hand, New Caledonia remains an integral part of the French Republic. Inhabitants of New Caledonia are French citizens and carry French passports. They take part in the legislative and presidential French elections. New Caledonia sends two representatives to the French National Assembly and two senators to the French Senate. The representative of the French central state in New Caledonia is the High Commissioner of the Republic (Haut-Commissaire de la République, locally known as "haussaire"), who is the head of civil services, and who sits in the government of the territory.
The Nouméa Accord stipulates that the Congress will have the right to call for a referendum on independence after 2014, at a time of its choosing.
The current president of the government elected by the Congress is Harold Martin, from the loyalist (i.e. anti-independence) "Future Together" party (l'Avenir Ensemble), which toppled the long-time ruling Rally for Caledonia in the Republic (RPCR) in May 2004. "Future Together" is a party of mostly Caucasian and Polynesian New Caledonians opposed to independence but tired of the hegemonic and allegedly corrupt anti-independence RPCR.
Their toppling of the RPCR (that was until then seen as the only voice of New Caledonian whites) was a surprise to many, and a sign that the society of New Caledonia is undergoing changes. "Future together", as the name implies, is opposed to a racial vision of New Caledonian society, which divides into opposing camps Melanesians native inhabitants and European settlers, and is in favor of a multicultural New Caledonia, better reflecting the existence of large populations of Polynesians, Indonesians, Chinese, and other immigrants.
Some members of "Future Together" are even in favor of greater autonomy or even independence, though not necessarily on the same basis as the Melanesian independence parties, which seek full independence for New Caledonia.
The high commissioner is appointed by the French president on the advice of the French Ministry of Interior. The president of the government is elected by the members of the Territorial Congress.
The Congress (Congrès) has 54 members, being the members of the three regional councils, all elected for a five-year term by proportional representation. Furthermore there is a 16 member Kanak Customary Senate (two members from each of the eight customary aires).
Court of Appeal or Cour d'Appel; County Courts; Joint Commerce Tribunal Court; Children's Court