Macron suspends voting reforms in New Caledonia, which had led to violence

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PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron announced Wednesday the suspension of controversial voting reforms in New Caledonia, following a wave of deadly unrest in the French Pacific region.

The reforms, which would have changed voting rights, are feared by the indigenous Kanak people, who say they would have further marginalized voting rights. The issue has caused the worst violence on the archipelago in decades.

The violence flared up on May 13 in response to attempts by Macron’s government to amend the French Constitution and change the voting lists in New Caledonia. France declared a state of emergency in its Pacific territory on May 15 and rushed in hundreds of reinforcements to help police quell the uprising, which included shootings, clashes, looting and arson.

Both sides of New Caledonia’s bitter divide – the indigenous Kanaks, who want independence, and those loyal to France – have erected barricades, either to rebel against authorities or to protect their homes and property. Pro-independence protesters built barricades from charred vehicles and other debris, turning parts of the capital Noumea into no-go zones.

“I have decided to suspend the draft constitution regarding New Caledonia…,” Macron said. “We cannot allow any ambiguity to exist during this period. It must be suspended to give full force to the dialogue on the ground and the return to order.”

The French Justice Ministry on Wednesday confirmed the June 11 death of a 34-year-old man who was injured during a confrontation with police on May 29. An autopsy and an investigation into the use of force by the gendarmerie have been ordered. stakeholders is ongoing.

Louis Mapou, president of the government of New Caledonia, expressed his condolences and called for calm. “I urge the immediate removal of the barricades and a return to peace,” Mapou said.

The French government has extended the curfew for the entire archipelago until June 17.

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