9 Mar 2020

Court to rule on French flag use in New Caledonia referendum

5:54 am on 9 March 2020

The French supreme court has been asked to decide whether New Caledonia's anti-independence parties can use the French flag in their campaign material for the September independence referendum.

The issue was raised in an extraordinary sitting of New Caledonia's Congress called to prepare the plebiscite.

Kanak and French flags on Ouvea island.

Kanak and French flags on Ouvea island. Photo: AFP

According to the electoral law, French political parties are not allowed to use the tricolore in their material as not to convey the notion that they represent the state.

In the referendum campaign, the pro-independence parties can use the Kanak flag which prompted the anti-independence camp to counter with a demand to be allowed to use the French flag.

They say this is not an election but a referendum.

The pro-independence side is opposed to a law change, with both camps now warning of possible difficulties ahead.

A motion was tentatively adopted by 27 to 25 votes to include the French flag while awaiting the French supreme court decision.

The mainly Wallisian Pacific Awakening party, which has three seats and holds the balance of power, said it would refrain from campaigning on the referendum.

Its leader abstained while the other two Congress members voted with the anti-independence camp.

The referendum on 6th September is the second of three possible plebiscites under the 1998 Noumea Accord to complete the decolonisation of New Caledonia.

In the first vote in 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo after polls suggested more than 70 percent would prefer to stay with France.

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