11 Oct 2019

Dates mooted for next New Caledonia referendum

2:46 pm on 11 October 2019

The next referendum on New Caledonia's independence from France will be held on either 30 August or September 6.

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

That was announced by the French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe in Paris after 15 hours of negotiations among the signatories to the Noumea Accord.

He said it was not a date simple to set.

Mr Philippe said the exact day would be determined within the next two weeks to ensure means were in place to conduct the plebiscite in irreproachable conditions.

The pro-independence side began talks asking for the next vote to held as close as possible to the cut-off date of 4 November while a leading anti-independence politician wanted it brought forward to July.

It has also been decided that non-Kanaks born in New Caledonia, who have lived in the territory for the last three years, won't be automatically enrolled for next year's referendum.

In last year's vote, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.

Should voters again reject independence next year, another referendum can be called by New Caledonia's Congress within the following two years.

Meanwhile, The French newspaper La Liberation has published an appeal signed by about 100 personalities calling for New Caledonia's independence.

The group, which includes writers as well as a former football star Lilian Thuram, said only independence guaranteed a future of peace, stability and social justice.

It said the French state recognised that at the end of the Accord, New Caledonia should benefit from complete emancipation.

The group said after President Emmanuel Macron described colonialism as a crime against humanity, the state should follow up such words with deeds and allow for a first decolonisation with gentleness.

Recent relations between France and New Caledonia had been marked by too much indecision, and too many missed opportunities and words not being kept.

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