20 Dec 2006

New Caledonia amendment expected before French Congress in two months

3:47 pm on 20 December 2006

Reports from France say a joint session of both houses of parliament is expected before the end of February to approve a constitutional amendment aimed at restricting voting rights in New Caledonia to long-term residents.

The prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, has reportedly given an assurance that the law project is on track although members of his ruling UMP Party oppose it.

The opposition Socialist Party had warned the government not to try to subvert the amendment.

The French assembly has approved the change which means French citizens who have arrived in the territory after 1998 are not allowed to vote in the 2009 provincial elections.

The French senate is to vote on the bill next month.

The amendment is in line with an undertaking by France made in 1998 when rival groups in New Caledonia signed the Noumea Accord on greater autonomy.