22 Oct 2020

New Caledonia mayor concerned about polling conditions

5:20 pm on 22 October 2020

A New Caledonian mayor has suggested that a new approach may be needed for the next independence referendum after the disturbances at the last vote earlier this month.

New Caledonia votes a second time on independence from France

New Caledonia votes a second time on independence from France Photo: AFP or licensors

The Mayor of Dumbea, Georges Naturel, made the comment to Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes as he prepared for a video talk with the French overseas minister Sebastien Lecornu, who is in quarantine at the French High Commission in Noumea.

Naturel said voting had been going well thanks to the communes and while the first and second referendums were well organised, there was inappropriate activity by certain political groups around polling stations in the Noumea area.

He said if the region's mayors felt the conditions for a third referendum were not right, they might take their own measures.

He did not elaborate.

The anti-independence coalition, calling itself the Loyalists, asked for the result from nine polling stations to be annulled, saying there was inadmissible and illegal pressure and intimidation on 4 October when just over 53 percent of the electorate rejected independence.

Two weeks ago, the French commission supervising the referendum said it was regrettable that groups flying the FLNKS pro-independence flag were crowding polling stations.

Its head, Francis Lamy, said there was no such presence observed at the last referendum two years ago but because of their nature, these displays could be perceived as pressure.

The FLNKS has said it will call a third referendum in 2022 as provided under the Noumea Accord.

The anti-independence side is opposed to it, with the Loyalists instead proposing a vote on a new status which would anchor the territory within the French republic.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs