Anti-independence forces will be in charge of organizing next year’s referendum on independence in New Caledonia. The Congress of the French overseas territory elected a president and vice president yesterday. Details from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.
On a vote of 59 to 24, the Congress re-elected Theirry Santa as president for a third term, Philippe Dunoyer will be vice president.
Pro-independence forces could not agree on a single candidate.
20 years after the Noumea Accords, this Congress will now set the terms for the referendum. The decolonization process calls for a phased and irreversible transfer of power from France to New Caledonia, but is silent on the issue of sovereignty. Much will depend on the exact wording of the question put before the voters, and even more, on who’s allowed to vote.
The Noumea Accords restrict eligibility to those who’ve been citizens since 1998. Yesterday, about 3,000 pro-independence supporters staged a march to the French High Commission in Noumea, to demand that indigenous Kanaks be enrolled automatically. The law says everyone needs to register.
Earlier this month a delegation of pro-independence leaders travelled to Paris to meet with Prime Minister Edouard Phillipe, who will visit New Caledonia later this year. The pro-independence group that signed the Noumea Accords is called FLNKS. The French acronym stands for the Kanak Socialist Liberation Front, but the movement’s splintered since then. So has the anti-independence side - and if it’s unable to organize the referendum by next May, France will step in, and hold the vote no later than November 2018.