France mulls New Caledonia electoral reform ahead of key vote

The future of New Caledonia's electoral system is up for debate as the French Senate examines a constitutional reform that would broaden the roll of eligible voters ahead of provincial polls in the French overseas territory.

Some 17,000 kilometres from the New Caledonian capital Nouméa, French senators made various changes to the government's proposed reforms to the territory's electoral system last week, and are due to adopt them in a formal vote on 2 April.

The elections – due by mid-December – are crucial for New Caledonia, where the regional provinces hold a large proportion of the territory's powers.

The national government's proposals aim to expand the electoral roll for the provincial elections has so far proved a sticking point in discussions on the future status of the archipelago.

Currently reserved for certain people who have been living on the islands since before 1998 as well as their descendants, the next elections would be opened to people with at least ten years' residence in New Caledonia.

The change, which requires an amendment to the French Constitution, could allow an extra 11,000 people to vote.

Impasse

The fact that the electoral roll has been frozen for more than 25 years means that almost one in five voters has been excluded from elections, which would run the risk of rendering the next ballot unconstitutional.

According to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who has travelled extensively to the region, residents need to "correct a distortion that is not in keeping with the exercise of the right to vote in a territory of the Republic".


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