Kanaky-New Caledonia: why the thawing of the electorate could ignite the powder

The examination by the deputies, from May 7 – for a vote scheduled for the 13th – of the “draft constitutional law modifying the electorate for elections to the congress and provincial assemblies of New Caledonia”, according to its official name, paves the way for its adoption by Congress which must then meet to definitively validate it by three-fifths.

A law under debate

The subject is highly explosive, and the government, allied with the Caledonian anti-independence right, is playing with fire. During its examination and vote by the Senate on March 26, the Kanak senator from the CRCE-K group, Robert Xowie, questioned Gérald Darmanin: the FLNKS criticizes the government for “umpteenth attempt to force entry”. In the Assembly, the rapporteur of the law is none other than Nicolas Metzdorf, the anti-independence deputy joined by Renaissance – which illustrates the impartiality of the government on the subject of Kanaky-New Caledonia. For lawyer François Roux, the objective is clear: “France wants to constitutionalize colonization in Kanaky”. Mobilization on site is intensifying with a strike planned in several sectors while Congress adopted a resolution on Monday demanding the withdrawal of the reform, a call relayed by the left in France.

The stakes are enormous: it is a question of modifying the electoral body of Caillou, frozen by the Nouméa agreements of 1998. However, with the end of the latter, which covered the period going from 1998 to the third referendum of 2021, a period of negotiations and uncertainties has begun. The State, under the influence of anti-independence activists, has made the thaw a major axis of its Caledonian policy.

He proposes opening the electorate to any person residing in the territory for a minimum of ten years, i.e. 25,000 additional people, to be able to vote in provincial elections and in the congress, the local assembly, made up of provincial elected officials.

The FLNKS is not against, but within the framework of a “consensus within a global agreement”including in particular political and economic questions, making it possible to “chart the KNC’s path towards full sovereignty and independence”.

An old question

The electorate has been one of the central subjects in the KNC for decades. In 1972, Prime Minister Pierre Messmer coldly wrote, in a note that became famous: “In the long term, indigenous nationalist advocacy will only be avoided if non-Pacific communities represent a majority population. »

The postulate of freezing the electorate is therefore simple: in a settlement colony, penal colony, where the indigenous people have become a minority and where the notion of “common destiny” is essential, one must be born there or be established there. sustainably to access citizenship.

With primacy therefore to the Kanaks and the descendants of settlers and convicts, the Nouméa agreement consecrates this New Caledonian citizenship, and defines three electoral bodies: for self-determination referendums, for the provincial ones, and for the municipal, legislative and presidential ones, where all residents can vote.

On April 28, the New Caledonian historian Louis-José Barbançon specified, during an interview on the Outre-mer la Première channel, that “in this country, under the guise of democracy, when you launch the thaw of the electorate, immediately the country is divided. Those who have done it know it. For them it is important, because when the country is not divided, they are not in power…” Precisely: since July 2021, for the first time in history, the government (always collegial since representing the different forces of the congress) has had a pro-independence majority, with Louis Mapou at its head, from Palika, the Kanak Liberation Party.

The right is fueling the fire

For the anti-independence right and its leader Sonia Backès, former minister of Emmanuel Macron, this situation is unbearable. In Paris, she plays the democrat; in Nouméa, she violently attacked elected officials and the government of Louis Mapou: “You are no longer legitimate, because if the inhabitants of the Southern province weighed the weight they had to weigh here, you would not be at the head of the government”she dared to say on March 21 in the middle of the congress session.

On April 13, two demonstrations were held in Nouméa, a few streets apart, as a symbol of the New Caledonian divisions: one for the thaw, the other against. In total, 32,000 people. A huge figure for the territory.

Faced with these excesses, the FLNKS reacted on March 26, firmly denouncing those who “are seeking to destabilize our institutions and the country in the hope of regaining power by force”and pointing “nostalgic behaviors from the colonial era”. For his part, the head of government, Louis Mapou, denounced electoral aims: the provincial elections, already postponed, must be held at the end of the year. Time is therefore running out for the local or French right to expand this electoral body…

State bias

This is one of the major causes of the tension shaking the Caillou: the end of the impartiality of the State. The torpedoing of the third referendum, in 2021, which led to its boycott by the separatists, then the appointment of Sonia Backès to the government sounded the death knell for the neutrality of the State, which “chose a side”describes Louis-José Barbaçon.

From Emmanuel Macron to Gérald Darmanin via Gérard Larcher, all current leaders have spoken out in favor of maintaining the KNC in France. Which today leads the FLNKS to request the establishment of a “mediation mission in NC, impartial and strong in its commitment to the irreversible decolonization process underway”.

An idea also put forward, this April 29, by the overseas parliamentary information mission, made up of four deputies. Following its visit to KNC last March, the members of the mission reported a “real risk of conflagration”showing himself “worried about the rising tensions of the radicalization of some in the face of upcoming deadlines, in the context of an armed population and poorly healed wounds”. To deceive, Emmanuel Macron promised not to convene the Congress “in the process” of the Assembly’s vote, said those around him who are praising a sign of openness to give a chance to discussions with a view to a global institutional agreement. A step still far from the expectations of the separatists.

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