4 Oct 2006

Concern in New Caledonia that France may renege on voter deal

2:31 pm on 4 October 2006

There is concern in New Caledonia that France could renege on an undertaking to change the eligibility criteria for the territory's voters.

The pro-independence Caledonian Union has expressed its disquiet over comments by a leading French parliamentarian that there are better things to do than change such a type of text.

At stake is a provision of the 1998 Noumea accord that imposes residency requirements for those taking part in New Caledonian elections and plebiscites.

After the pro-independence camp had signed up to the accord, the anti-independence side challenged the constitutionality of restricting voting rights for French citizens.

In 2003, the French president, Jacques Chirac, told New Caledonians that the matter would be resolved before the end of his term in 2007.

This was confirmed this year by the overseas territories minister, Francois Baroin, who said there would be a freeze of the electorate.

The leader of the Caledonian Union, Pascal Naouna, says he expects the matter to be settled because of the undertaking given by the French state.

The Kanaks fear that as a result of immigration, they could be marginalised.