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New Caledonia

French court quashes Kanak bid

A court in France has quashed a legal challenge looking to declare the independence referendum taken in New Caledonia as null and void.

The Kanak customary senate made claims that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic did not allow for a successful referendum.

The December referendum showed that New Caledonians wanted to remain a colony of France however despite the 96 per cent vote casted against independence, 56 per cent of voters had refused to vote.

This refusal to vote arose after France declined to postpone the referendum and pro-independence parties called on the Kanak community to boycott voting.

The result of which is now a referendum which France claims to be a true reflection of what New Caledonians want.

The court in Paris found that the epidemiological situation in New Caledonia improved in October and November and that by the time of the referendum on 12 December, more than 77 per cent of the population was vaccinated.

The referendum was to have taken place in October 2020 but due to the pandemic it was shifted to December.

Pro independence supporters getting ready to vote for the independence referendum in October 2020. This was moved to December 2020. Picture: MSG Secretariat Twitter

The court said that neither constitutional provisions nor the organic law make the validity of the vote conditional on a minimum turnout.

The court was told by the petitioners that even a legal challenge was made to defer referendum but this did not eventuate.

The petitioners said campaigning for pro-independence was also difficult given the restrictions imposed on the community.

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The court rejected the challenge and voting went ahead as intended by the French government.

The larger Kanak community claim that 90 per cent of New Caledonians want independence, and this was made clear at the UN decolonisation meeting.

Meanwhile French senate is hearing experts this week as its law commission prepares work on a new statute for New Caledonia following last year’s rejection of independence.

The commission chaired by Francois-Noel Buffet has formed a team that will travel to New Caledonia in two weeks for talks with all stakeholders.

The team is expected to stay for a week and complete its work by the end of July. This will lead to a planned referendum in June 2023 on a new statute for New Caledonia within the French republic.

This could prove detrimental for the Noumea Accord and changes could follow suit.

The Noumea Accord – the provisions of which have been enshrined in the French constitution – restricts voting rights to indigenous people and long-term residents.

It also allows for a pro-independence vice president in New Caledonia should the president be anti-independence.

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