A month before New Caledonia’s referendum on self-determination, local mayors from around the country gathered on 4 October at the French High Commission in the capital Noumea.
Hosted by French High Commissioner Thierry Lataste, the meeting discussed preparations for the looming referendum on the French Pacific dependency’s political status. On Sunday 4 November, New Caledonians will vote on the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to accede to full sovereignty and become independent?” As the French State’s official representative in New Caledonia, High Commissioner Lataste highlighted the importance of working with local officials to cover the whole territory.
“As with all elections, the mayors France prepares for New Caledonia referendum are indispensable participants,” he said. “The vote will take place in each municipality, in each town hall, so they play a crucial role.”
It’s a major exercise, with 283 polling stations across the country, from the mountain valleys of mainland Grande Terre to outlying atolls in the Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.
The vote is the culmination of a twenty year transition under the Noumea Accord, signed in May 1998 between the French State, the Kanak independence movement Front de Libération Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS) and the antiindependence party RPCR. After violent clashes between supporters and opponents of independence during the 1980s, the Noumea Accord created new political institutions and a multi-party government, initiated economic reforms and began the transfer of powers from Paris to Noumea.
The 1998 Accord deferred a referendum on self-determination for twenty years, but time has moved on. Voters will turn
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