1 Jun 2020

No consensus for New Caledonia independence referendum date

6:59 am on 1 June 2020

New Caledonia's largest pro-independence party has renewed its call to postpone the referendum on independence from France from 6 September to 25 October.

Ballot box used for New Caledonia's independence referendum

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

The Caledonian Union reacted to a proposal by the French prime minister Edouard Philippe to reschedule the plebiscite on 4 October, taking into account restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dominant anti-independence coalition, Future with Confidence, in turn welcomed Mr Philippe's suggestion after earlier urging for the September date to be kept.

Future with Confidence also greeted with satisfaction the news the pro-French camp was now allowed to use the French flag in its referendum campaign.

It had challenged the ban which was based on a French law prohibiting political parties to claim the tricolore for their campaign purposes.

Mr Philippe's proposal to defer the vote until 4 October is open for discussion for two weeks after which Paris is expected to proceed to setting the new date.

The pro-independence FLNKS movement, which includes the Caledonian Union, argued that Covid-19 impacted on the political calendar by prompting a delay of the municipal elections by three months to late June and that a mix up of the local election campaign with the referendum debate should be avoided.

It also said that Paris would not give its official position on the consequences of a possible yes-vote until 13 July which would give little time to incorporate the policy into the campaign.

The FLNKS also pointed out that with the September date, quarantine provisions could affect the deployment of the UN observers and the more than 200 French magistrates who were scheduled to be flown to help supervise the referendum.

Currently, anyone arriving in New Caledonia must be quarantined for three weeks.

New Caledonia imported 19 Covid-19 cases while France recorded more than 150,000 cases.

In the previous referendum, in 2018, just under 57 percent voted for the status quo.

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

FLNKS wants referendum delayed because of Covid-19

FLNKS wants referendum delayed because of Covid-19 Photo: supplied FB

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