31 Jan 2020

France rejects bid to change New Caledonian enrolment law

3:08 pm on 31 January 2020

The French National Assembly has rejected a bid to alter the law for enrolling in New Caledonia's independence referendum.

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum

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

In doing so, the Assembly followed last week's recommendation of the law commission.

Two New Caledonian anti-independence members wanted a change so all prospective voters born in New Caledonia would automatically be enrolled.

This would have changed the provisions finalised at the last meeting of the signatories of the Noumea Accord, which pave the way for the September referendum on independence from France.

The restricted roll used for the plebiscite excludes some non-Kanak New Caledonian residents unless they register as voters.

In the Assembly, New Caledonia's Philippe Gomes argued that the voluntary registration system had left most of the potential additional voters out but the overseas minister Annick Girardin said his figures were totally wrong.

She also warned that a change could upend the consensus and stability attained in New Caledonia over the past 30 years.

At last October's Paris meeting of the signatories to the Noumea Accord, the pro-independence delegates objected to such any late law change.

At the time, the prime minister said those who failed to be enrolled automatically would be contacted and encouraged to register.

The law commission noted that there was no consensus for a law change, with one member saying it would prompt a deferral of the next referendum, which is due on 6 September.

Others said that failure to change the law breaches the equality between the various voters.

In the first referendum under the terms of the Noumea Accord in November 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.

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