France and New Caledonia: A 12-Month Outlook

On 12th June, French President Emmanuel Macron suspended a controversial voting reform in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory. In May, deadly riots broke out in New Caledonia as the native Kanak people, who make up 41% of the Island’s population, rejected the reform bill. The election reform bill sought to expand the electorate beyond Islanders born after 1998. Since 1998, the Noumea Accord, an agreement between France and New Caledonia, has frozen the expansion of New Caledonia’s electorate. The 1998 Accord also set out a twenty year path toward New Caledonian self-determination.

Between 2018 and 2021, France hosted three independence referendums in New Caledonia, all returned results favouring remaining part of France. The Kanak people consider the final referendum in 2021 to be illegitimate as France pushed ahead with the vote during a COVID-19 outbreak on the Island. Over the next 12 months, France must appease the native Kanak peoples whilst respecting the democratic rights of New Caledonia’s majority non-Kanak population.

Key Judgement 1. It is highly unlikely New Caledonia will become an independent nation in the next 12 months.

Key Judgement 2. It is unlikely widespread political unrest will break out in New Caledonia in the next 12 months unless France attempts to curb native Kanak autonomy.

Key Judgement 3. It is likely France will begin negotiations with New Caledonia over the future autonomy of the Kanak people in the next 12 months.

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