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  • New Caledonia
  • David Chappell (bio)

The approaching French legislative and presidential elections of 2007 amplified political rhetoric and maneuvering in New Caledonia in 2006 over issues such as the freezing of the electorate for future provincial elections, tensions within the coalitions that had signed the Noumea Accord of 1998, multinational takeovers and environmental protests over mining development, social and economic reforms, emergence as a quasi-autonomous Pacific country in regional affairs, and paralyzing labor strikes, which, at times, had political overtones. Ongoing situational cooperation between the loyalist Avenir Ensemble (ae) and elements of the pro-independence Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (flnks), and sometimes even the local branch of the archconservative Front National (fn), enabled the country to continue its progress toward self-governance. But the once-dominant loyalist Rassemblement pour la Calédonie dans la République (rpcr), in league with loyalist voters associations and the fn, became more militant about protecting universal suffrage and ties with France.

In elections for the French president or legislature, municipal elections, or European Union elections, any French citizen in the country can vote, but the Noumea Accord endorsed restricting the local electorate in provincial elections and in referendums on independence to long-term residents. The flnks argues that the indigenous Kanak people were deprived of the right to vote for a century by French colonialism (from 1853 to the early 1950s), even though international law has recognized their right, as the first occupants of the country, to self-determination. They say that in negotiations in 1983 (Nainville-Les-Roches), 1988 (Matignon-Oudinot), and 1998 (Paris-Noumea), Kanak leaders made concessions to immigrants of long residence (whom they regard as fellow victims of history) by agreeing to work together toward a common destiny, but that the commitment in those agreements to restricting who can determine the future status of the country must be respected. Few residents object to having the restriction apply to future referendums, and in the provincial elections in 1999 and 2004, a "sliding" electorate (anyone with ten years' residence) has applied. But because the Congress will have the right, according to the Noumea Accord, to propose a referendum on independence between 2013 and 2018, the flnks has lobbied Paris to restrict [End Page 582] the electorate in the 2009 and 2014 provincial elections to a "frozen" pool of long-term residents, namely people who were eligible to vote in the 1998 referendum on the accord, and their descendants (nc, 14 Dec 2006). The flnks points to massive French immigration during the 1970s, which marginalized the Kanak and pushed them to revolt in the 1980s—a demographic threat that is reviving as nickel mining is booming due to the rise in demand for stainless steel in China and India. French migrants to other countries must abide by local laws, the flnks argues, so they should respect that Kanaky/New Caledonia is "a country going through a process of emancipation" (nc, 30 Dec 2006). The loyalists believe, however, that New Caledonia is France, despite its being on the other side of the world.

Rock Wamytan of the flnks argues that Kanak martyrs Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Yeiwene Yeiwene sacrificed their lives over the citizenship concessions they had made to non-Kanak immigrants, when a radical separatist assassinated them on Ouvea in 1989. The provisions of the Noumea Accord were enacted into laws in 1999 by the French National Assembly and Senate, which also approved the frozen electorate concept. The full Congress of Versailles (combined Assembly and Senate) needed to ratify the latter in order to amend the French national constitution, but it never met, due to many criticisms of the text. In 2003, President Jacques Chirac visited New Caledonia and vowed to find an acceptable solution before the end of his term of office, which—because a French constitutional referendum in 2000 shortened the presidential term from seven to five years—means a deadline of 2007. In early 2005, the European Court of Human Rights approved the frozen electorate, which bitterly disappointed a movement of metropolitan French in New Caledonia, who resented becoming "second-class citizens," and in March 2006, the French Council of Ministers in Paris adopted a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9464
Print ISSN
1043-898X
Pages
pp. 582-597
Launched on MUSE
2007-08-13
Open Access
No
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