16 Feb 2018

French Senate debates New Caledonia electoral law change

10:34 am on 16 February 2018

The French Senate has debated the planned change of electoral law for New Caledonia and will vote on it next week.

A leading anti-independence New Caledonian politician, Pierre Frogier.

Pierre Frogier Photo: AFP

The change is aimed at accommodating last year's political agreement between New Caledonia's pro and anti-independence camps which determines the restricted roll for this year's independence referendum.

The proposal will then be submitted to the National Assembly for debate in mid-March.

The Senate debate was marked by a New Caledonian member Pierre Frogier challenging the use of the term Caledonian people as distinct from the French people.

He said this terminology played into the hands of the pro-independence side, adding that he wondered why it was so hard for the French state to express its attachment to a New Caledonia as a part of France.

Another Senator Philippe Bas said New Caledonia's fellow citizens were French citizens. They are citizens of New Caledonia, French citizens and European citizens.

The overseas minister Annick Giradin said the notion of there being a Caledonian people was the result of the notion of there being a Caledonian citizenship.

The new law will allow for the enrolment of an additional 11,000 people, including indigenous Kanaks and others who were born in New Caledonia but had not been registered.

The make-up of the roll has been contentious for many years and although the signatories to the Noumea Accord have reached an agreement, a nationalist movement remains wary of the sincerity of the roll and may yet call for a boycott.

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