FOR months, Noumea’s political elite has been deeply divided. From January to April, New Caledonia was without a President, with the country’s multi-party government riven by bitter disputes between leading anti-independence politicians.
After an important meeting in Paris last month, however, there are signs that a looming referendum on New Caledonia’s political future is forcing leaders to compromise. After 12 hours of discussions on 5 June hosted by the French Prime Minister, political leaders from the French Pacific dependency have come together, to forge a new agreement on voting rights for New Caledonia’s proposed referendum on self-determination.
Under the Noumea Accord, New Caledonia’s Congress can, by three-fifths majority, set the date for a referendum. If they are unable to do so, the French government must organise a referendum before the end of 2018, with two more votes possible in subsequent years. But who is eligible to vote for New Caledonia’s crucial decision on decolonisation?
To resolve long-standing disputes over voting rights, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls hosted a significant meeting at the Hotel de Matignon on 5 June, involving key leaders from across the political spectrum.
As well as the original signatories of the 1998 Noumea Accord, the special summit included the presidents of New Caledonia’s three provinces; New Caledonia’s elected representatives in the French National Assembly and Senate; and the heads of all major political groupings represented in New Caledonia’s national Congress.
by Nic Maclellan