14 Dec 2006

Uproar in New Caledonia over French voting decision

4:07 pm on 14 December 2006

A vote in the French assembly over amending the French constitution has caused uproar among some of New Caledonia's MPs.

France's lower House of Parliament has passed a bill to approve a constitutional amendment which restricts voting rights to long-term residents in the territory.

It means French citizens who have arrived in the territory since 1998 are not allowed to vote in the 2009 provincial elections.

The bill stems from the signing of the Noumea Accord in 1998 which sets out guidelines for a gradual increase of autonomy for the territory.

A staunch opponent to the bill, MP Pierre Frogier of the Rassemblement-UMP, describes it as a legal monstrosity.

And Pierre Bretegnier, who heads the UMP in the Southern province, says most people in New Caledonia are against the decision.

"They are sad because they want to be French in a French country. The only people who are happy are the Melanesian independentists because they know this is a step towards independence but they represent a minority, about 30 percent of the population."

Pierre Bretegnier