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21 Jun 2024 10:28
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  •   Home > News > International

    French president Emmanuel Macron delays New Caledonia voting reforms after deadly riots

    Emmanuel Macron met with political leaders on Thursday, admitting there was no "common vision" on the island's future.

    French President Emmanual Macron has delayed voting reforms that sparked deadly riots in New Caledonia, but has stopped short of scrapping them completely.

    The electoral changes would allow thousands of French residents who have lived in the French territory for 10 years to vote. 

    The territory's Indigenous Kanaks, who make up more than 40 per cent of the population, see the changes as an attempt to torpedo the independence movement.

    Mr Macron travelled to New Caledonia on Thursday, but after hours of meetings with political leaders, he admitted there was no "common vision" on the pacific island's future.

    He said he would not force the proposed changes through and that more talks were needed.

    "I have pledged that this reform will not pass today in the current context," Mr Macron told reporters after the meetings.

    "We will allow some weeks to allow a calming of tensions and resumption of dialogue to find a broad accord."

    Mr Macron said it would take several days for calm to return, and would keep a state of emergency in place until roadblocks set up by protesters were removed.

    He added he would review the situation again within a month, saying he was confident all parties could come to an agreement within the weeks and months to come.

    The crisis has left six dead and hundreds injured, with Australia this week organising flights to evacuate its citizens.

    Earlier on Thursday, Mr Macron toured the capital's central police station, and flew by helicopter over areas wrecked by arson.

    Paris says the changes are needed to improve democracy on the island, where almost a quarter of the population identifies as European.

    But pro-independence groups say they want the electoral reform scrapped and have called for an independent arbiter to get involved in negotiations between them and anti-independence groups.

    Jimmy Naouna, a spokesperson from the pro-independence Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) earlier told the ABC's Pacific Beat there needed to be a political solution to the crisis.

    "The political solution to this is for the negotiations to start again, but for that, there needs to be a secure and safe environment and peaceful environment, and for that, this electoral reform bill needs to be suspended or withdrawn," Mr Nauona said.

    He also called for the withdrawal of French troops.

    "You can't keep sending in troops just to quell the protests, because that is just going to lead to more protests."

    But earlier Mr Macron said additional French security in the territory totalling 3,000 personnel would remain, even during the Paris Olympics if required.



    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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