New Caledonia: the National Assembly votes for constitutional reform, after a night of tensions on the archipelago

Despite the wave of violence in New Caledonia, the government's constitutional reform continues its progress after the favorable vote of the National Assembly on Tuesday evening, May 14

New Caledonia: the National Assembly votes for constitutional reform, after a night of tensions on the archipelago

Despite the wave of violence in New Caledonia, the government's constitutional reform continues its progress after the favorable vote of the National Assembly on Tuesday evening, May 14. The vote covered the entire text already adopted in the Senate.

At the end of the day, the deputies adopted the first article, the heart of the reform, which expands the electoral body specific to the provincial election of New Caledonia to all citizens residing there for ten years. It is contested by the separatists who fear a loss of electoral weight for the Kanaks. “It could have incalculable consequences for civil peace,” responded La France Insoumise (LFI) MP Bastien Lachaud.

The debates progressed slowly on Tuesday, with the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, accusing LFI of parliamentary “obstruction” by defending amendments which sometimes only changed a word or an expression. The LFI deputies rejected the accusation, Danièle Obono assuming “editorial” amendments to have time to intervene on the substance of the project.

“A democratic process cannot stop because there is violence on the ground,” pleaded Tuesday morning the president of the Renaissance group, Sylvain Maillard, in reference to the violence in the archipelago which led to more of 130 arrests, according to the latest report.

The left wanted to postpone the examination or withdraw the text

The president of the National Rally group, Marine Le Pen, and her Republican counterpart, Olivier Marleix, pleaded in unison with the majority so that the vote should not be postponed.

Conversely, the left called for postponing the examination, or withdrawing the text. “Appeasement can only happen through a withdrawal of the constitutional bill,” said the president of the communist group André Chassaigne to Gabriel Attal during questions to the government, a request also made by his counterpart Mathilde Panot (LFI). “Suspend the examination of this reform”, launched Arthur Delaporte, of the Socialist Party (PS).

“The unfreezing of the electorate is a major, unavoidable democratic issue,” replied the Prime Minister. Calling to “find the broadest possible political agreement”, he also urged “New Caledonian political leaders to seize this outstretched hand”.

In a blog note, the leader of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, on the contrary ordered the head of state to “take note of the new situation and [to] assume the withdrawal” of the text.

Before the debates resumed, the president of the PS group, Boris Vallaud, called for the “contact group” on New Caledonia to be brought together. The President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, actually convened this body, bringing together the deputies of the territory and representatives of each group. “Given what is happening in New Caledonia, at the moment in Nouméa, particularly, we are collectively calling for calm, for the resumption of dialogue,” Yaël Braun-Pivet told The Perch, after about an hour of meeting.

Macron wants to give one last chance to discussions

President Macron proposed inviting all New Caledonian parties to Paris for a meeting with the government aimed at relaunching dialogue. He also promised that he would not convene “in the wake” of a possible adoption of the text the Congress of Parliament necessary to modify the Constitution, in order to give a last chance to discussions between the local parties.

The reform plans to expand the electoral body of the provincial election of New Caledonia. This is essentially limited to voters registered on the lists for a previous consultation in 1998 and their descendants, de facto excluding residents who arrived after 1998 and many natives. In the Senate, a mechanism has been added to allow the suspension of this constitutional reform if a local agreement occurs up to ten days before the next elections.

But the enlargement is contested by the separatists and very strong violence punctuated the night from Monday to Tuesday in New Caledonia, with shops looted, houses burned and shots fired at the gendarmes. In the Nouméa metropolitan area, the curfew decreed by the High Commissioner of the Republic came into force at 6 p.m. local time (9 a.m. in Paris).