New Caledonia loyalists unhappy with electoral law
There has been a negative reaction in New Caledonia to the French government's electoral law for the territory's independence referendum.
There has been a negative reaction in New Caledonia to the French government approving an electoral law as part of preparations for an independence referendum by 2018.
The law provides for an electoral roll which automatically includes only indigenous Kanaks and those people who had been registered no later than in 1998.
Don Wiseman asked Walter Zweifel what is so contentious?
WALTER ZWEIFEL: The anti-independence side is incensed at the fact that some people who were born in New Caledonia have to go through this process of being registered as voters. The idea that they have to re-enroll is simply something that they don't accept.
DON WISEMAN: Why did the French government step in here? Why did it take this action?
WZ: The French government had to clarify who was eligible to vote in this referendum that is due to be held by 2018 and it went to court. The court examined the 1999 law that was pertinent to this question and concluded that the interpretation of the law is such that Kanaks are allowed to be on the roll automatically and the others not. This is the position that has been put forward by the prime minister Manuel Valls. However, the anti-independence side says the prime minister is just hiding behind legal arguments and that he is favouring the pro-independence side.
DW: Yet strangely enough, the pro-independence side is not entirely happy either.
WZ: No, they are not. There is concern that some of the Kanaks may not be included in the list because their names are not spelled in exactly the same way...so there are lots of details that need to be looked at. To go back to the election last year - the Kanaks were not happy about the rolls being used then, saying there were thousands of people who voted that should not have been allowed to vote because they did not qualify under these residence criteria that apply for people who came from the outside to live in New Caledonia.
DW: So there are unhappy people on both sides. So what are they going to do about it?
WZ: The law that has been approved by the French government now has to go to the Senate and is also to go to the French National Assembly. There is of course still the option for the Senate and the French Assembly to make amendments. The minister in charge of overseas territories, George Pau-Langevin, says they will consider whatever possible amendments that could be made. At the same time we have to keep in mind that Manuel Valls has said they have to follow the court, that it is in the interest of the French republic to stick to what the interpretation of the court is.
DW: And there are plans for protests?
WZ: Well, as I said the anti-independence side is very unhappy about the law as it is. It says it is favouring the pro-independence side. One party has said that on the 29th April they'll come out with a mass demonstration to show that most people want to stay French. The argument there is that there was a vote in the Congress in New Caledonia where a majority voted against the law proposal that has now been approved by the French government and they just want to say that the loyalists will not accept the way that France wants to proceed.
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