New Caledonia Erupts in Protests Over Voting Reforms, Raising Concerns About Instability

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Protests Erupt Over Voting Reforms

New Caledonia, a French territory in the Pacific, has been rocked by protests and violence following a debate on a constitutional bill aimed at enlarging the electorate for upcoming elections. Demonstrators, including Indigenous Kanaks, are angered by the proposed reforms, which they fear will further marginalize their community.

On May 14, 2024, protests erupted in Noumea, the capital of New Caledonia. Demonstrators set up burning roadblocks and clashed with police, who responded with non-lethal rounds. Shops, factories, and police stations were set ablaze, and cars were burned.

The violence continued into the night, with rioters attacking police stations and throwing rocks. A total of 82 people were arrested, and 51 police officers were injured. The High Commissioner, the representative of the French state in New Caledonia, described the situation as "a real unleashing of hatred."

The unrest stems from a proposed constitutional reform that would expand the electorate in the territory's provincial elections. Under the current system, only those who have lived in New Caledonia since 1998 are eligible to vote. The proposed reform would extend voting rights to those who have arrived since then, including many people from mainland France.

Pro-independence Kanaks fear that the reform would benefit pro-France politicians and further minimize their representation. They argue that the exclusion of one out of five people from voting is "absurd" and that the reform would undermine the Noumea Accord, a 1998 agreement that granted more political power to the territory.

In response to the violence, authorities have imposed a night-time curfew and banned public gatherings. Schools, colleges, and the international airport are also closed. The French government has called for calm and urged all Caledonians to demonstrate a sense of responsibility.

The unrest in New Caledonia highlights the ongoing tensions between pro-independence and pro-France factions in the territory. It also raises concerns about the potential for further violence and instability in the region.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09