Macron tells New Caledonians he will not force through voting reform that sparked riots

French President Emmanuel Macron said on a visit to riot-hit New Caledonia on Thursday that he won’t force through a contested voting reform that has sparked deadly unrest in the French Pacific territory and wants to leave time for local leaders to come up with an alternate agreement for the archipelago’s future.

Speaking after a day of meetings with leaders on both sides of New Caledonia’s bitter divide between Indigenous Kanaks who want independence and pro-Paris leaders who do not, Macron laid out a roadmap that he said could lead to another referendum on the archipelago.

Three earlier referendums between 2018 and 2021 produced “no” votes against independence. He said another referendum could be on a new political deal for the archipelago that he hopes local leaders will agree on in coming weeks and months after protesters’ barricades are dismantled, allowing for a state of emergency to be lifted and for peace to return.

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“I have pledged that this reform won’t be pushed through with force today in the current context and that we are giving ourselves a few weeks to allow for calm, the resumption of dialogue, with a view to a global agreement,” he said.

Macron said he would take stock in one month “at the most.”

“Everyone has a responsibility to really call for the lifting of the barricades, the cessation of all forms of attack, not simply for calm," he said.


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