New Caledonia, French Leaders Look To Finalize Plans For 2018 Referendum

'Maximum effort' made to ensure validity of vote on independence

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Nov. 8, 2016) – New Caledonian leaders and the French prime minister Manuel Valls have agreed to put in a maximum effort to make the territory's independence referendum incontestable.

Mr Valls chaired the Paris meeting of the signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord attended by New Caledonia's leading pro- and anti-independence politicians as they plan to finalise the vote due no later than in November 2018.

The meeting was the last before next year's French presidential and parliamentary election.

One sticking point is the make-up of the restricted electoral roll, with the pro-independence side insisting that all indigenous Kanaks be automatically inscribed for the vote.

However, the law demands that all voters be on the general roll.

A consensus has not been reached on how to resolve the matter, with Mr Valls warning against any temptation to radicalise the political discourse.

At the start of the meeting, Mr Valls expressed concern that the unrest seen near Noumea in recent weeks could be unleashed again.

He said the French state will continue to ensure public safety while admitting that in the past two years the security situation in the territory has worsened.

Radio New Zealand International
Copyright © 2016 RNZI. All Rights Reserved

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Actually, the "general roll" is not the one that will get to vote in a referendum on possible independence or not, but rather a roll restricted to long term residents. The pro-independence parties and the loyalist Caledonia Together party agree that all "local-born" residents should be able to vote on the future status of the country, but other loyalists want migrants with at least ten years residence to be able to vote, but they have to register instead of being automatically in the restricted electorate. Apparently that requirement may also apply to some Kanak who have lived abroad or never voted, but such details still need to be worked out, which is difficult given polarization over the categories created for special electorate.

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