New Caledonia

New push to delay New Caledonia vote

An open letter on behalf of New Caledonian pro-independence parties is pleading with France to postpone plans for the third and final referendum set down for December 12.

Scholars and activists for the independence movement of the French overseas territory are authorising the letter that will be sent on Monday to France president Emmanuel Macron.

Citizens of the Pacific archipelago in favour of a Kanaky republic have been clamouring for signatures to a petition over this past month to support its campaign further, after accusing the French republic of breaking a pledge to withhold the referendum for at least eight months later.

new caledonia votes
Independantist President of the Government of New Caledonia Louis Mapou delivers a speech in Tjibaou cultural centre in Noumea, in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia on November 25, 2021, ahead of December 12 referendum on a breakaway. (Photo by Theo Rouby / AFP)

“This has been requested because the French government is not respecting its word by leaving very little time between the second referendum and the third and ultimate one,” the movement said on its social media post.

“There is also a request to postpone the campaigns after Kanak and Oceanian (Indigenous) peoples have been particularly marked by Covid-related deaths.

“Lastly, from the beginning it’s been asked that the referendum and campaigns do not overlap with the French presidential elections campaign.

“This is why the prime minister Edouard Philippe had initially stated that the referendum would not take place before August 2022.”

The pro-independence campaigners have alleged that the change of dates has been used for political gains in France with the presidential election taking place on April 2022 after the final referendum.

Mr Phillippe’s promise has fallen by the wayside since being forced to resign the prime ministership over slumping election results, allowing Mr Macron to appoint Jean Castex in his place.

The date was settled in just May this year after a week of ministerial consultations in Paris between French loyalists, independence advocates and the republic’s government.

The December ballot will decide whether the territory will remain French or become its own Kanaky sovereign state.

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The initial two referendums, held in 2018 and 2020, were won by the pro-French side, respectively with 56.7 per cent and 53.3 per cent of the vote.

Despite the vote swinging back towards independence, its movement is concerned by the lack of preparation to win the confidence of the voters representing New Caledonia’s 285,000 citizens.

“We have a very short window of time to get in touch with Indigenous leaders, organisations (that are) defending the rights of Indigenous peoples, associations developing transitional justice, environmental justice collectives, associations promoting human rights and rights of the living, anti-colonial, anti-racist, decolonial, feminist organisations to gather signatures,” the movement said.

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