France backs controversial New Caledonia vote changes amid continued unrest | Politics News

The plan to expand the electoral list has been given the green light as New Caledonia experiences its worst unrest in more than 30 years.

France has adopted controversial reforms to voting rules in New Caledonia, which have led to the worst unrest in the Pacific territory in more than 30 years.

The administration in New Caledonia said more than 130 people had drowned He was arrested in a riotWhich began on Monday evening by setting cars and buildings on fire and looting stores.

The Republic’s High Commission in New Caledonia said in a statement on Wednesday morning that “serious unrest” was continuing, adding that a night-time curfew and ban on public gatherings would remain in effect.

She added that a prison escape attempt was also thwarted.

Anger has been mounting for weeks over Paris’s plans to change the constitution to allow more people to vote in regional elections in New Caledonia. Critics say the move would marginalize the indigenous Kanak people, who make up about 40% of the population, by allowing new European arrivals to vote.

France says the rules must be changed to support democracy on the island.

The National Assembly in Paris adopted this measure after a lengthy debate shortly after midnight, by a majority of 351 votes to 153.

French President Emmanuel Macron then urged New Caledonia’s representatives in a letter to “unequivocally condemn all this violence” and “call for calm,” Agence France-Presse reported.

A joint session of the National Assembly and Senate is necessary for the new rules to take effect as they represent a constitutional change.

Long term problems

New Caledonia, with a population of about 300,000, is located between Australia and Fiji, and is one of France’s largest overseas territories.

The area, located about 17,000 kilometers (10,563 miles) from Paris, is a key part of France’s claim to be a Pacific power, but the Kanak people have long been angry with Paris’s rule.

Denise Fisher, the former Australian consul general in New Caledonia, said she was not surprised by the violence of the past few days and told Al Jazeera it showed “a real and fundamental breakdown in the way the region is governed.”

Voting rules are part of the so-called Noumea Agreement of 1998.

Under the agreement, France agreed to cede more political power in the territory, and to limit voting in provincial and council elections in New Caledonia to those who were residents of the island at the time.

About 40,000 French citizens have moved to New Caledonia since 1998, and the changes expand the electoral roll to include those who have lived in the territory for 10 years.

The Noumea Agreement also included a series of three independence referendums, the last of which was in December 2021 at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Pro-independence groups boycotted the vote, which supported remaining in France Reject the result.

They called for a new vote.

On Wednesday, the pro-independence National Socialist Kanak Liberation Front urged calm and condemned the violence, and called in a statement for the rioters to return to their homes.

Social and economic marginalization, land confiscation, and disenfranchisement of Kanaks have long been a source of violent civil unrest in New Caledonia.

In a 1987 referendum, independence supporters, angry that new residents of the territory were granted the right to vote, also led a boycott. An overwhelming vote to remain in France led to violent protests and, ultimately, to the 1988 Matignon Agreement, which aimed to correct inequality, and the Nouméa Agreement, with its vision of “shared sovereignty.”

“The concerns are deep-rooted,” Fisher said.

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