12 Jun 2020

New Caledonia Congress wants referendum delayed to 25 October

7:17 pm on 12 June 2020
New Caledonia Congress

Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Walter Zweifel

A majority in New Caledonia's Congress wants the postponed referendum on independence from France to be held on 25 October.

The vote was set for 6 September but because of the Covid-19 pandemic, French prime minister Edouard Philippe proposed to reschedule it to 4 October.

35 of 54 members said they wanted the later date of 25 October.

The largest bloc, however, the anti-independence Future with Confidence coalition was for an early vote.

Railati Bilo, a voter in New Caledonia's independence referendum

Railati Bilo, a voter in New Caledonia's independence referendum Photo: RNZ Walter Zweifel

The pro-independence FLNKS movement had argued that municipal elections had also been delayed, and it feared an earlier referendum vote would see a mix-up with local issues.

It also said 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.

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.