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France’s Macron ‘suspends’ New Caledonia reform that sparked deadly riots after snap polls called


President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday that a voting reform that triggered deadly riots in French Pacific territory New Caledonia would be “suspended” in light of snap parliamentary polls.

Instead, he aimed to “give full voice to local dialogue and the restoration of order” after weeks of unrest in which nine people died, Macron told reporters at a Paris press conference.

The reform would have allowed people living in New Caledonia for at least 10 years to vote in local ballots – unfreezing electoral rolls that have gone unchanged since 2007.

Indigenous Kanaks feared the change would dilute their vote among the 270,000-strong population, putting hopes for eventually winning independence definitively out of reach.

Although approved by both France’s National Assembly and Senate, the reform was waiting on a constitutional congress of both houses to become part of the basic law.

“I have decided to suspend it, because we can’t leave things ambiguous in this period,” Macron said.

04:58

‘It’s a civil war’: French New Caledonia declares state of emergency amid pro-independence protests

‘It’s a civil war’: French New Caledonia declares state of emergency amid pro-independence protests

In fact, with the National Assembly dissolved ahead of the election, the congress could not have been held by the deadline of June 30 – the day voters will now go to the polls in the first round of the election.

Violence broke out in New Caledonia on May 13 in response to parliamentary votes backing the reform.

Barricades, skirmishes with the police and looting killed nine, injured hundreds and inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.

Pro-independence movements had already seen the voting reform as dead and buried, given Macron’s call for snap elections in the wake of his camp’s European Parliament poll drubbing on Sunday.

“We can all agree that the European elections saw off the constitutional bill,” the Kanak Liberation Party (Palika) said on Wednesday before Macron’s remarks.

“This should be a time for rebuilding peace and social ties,” it added.



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