Independent referendum postponed until October 4 due to coronavirus

Due to the krona virus crisis, the French government proposes to postpone the referendum on the independence of New Caledonia from September 6 to October 4.

Édouard Philippe proposed on Saturday, May 30 to postpone the October 4 referendum on independence in New Caledonia, which was originally scheduled for September 6 due to the logistical difficulties caused by the krona virus crisis.

The Prime Minister transmitted a draft decree with this new date to the Government President and Congress in New Caledonia for an advisory opinion within 15 days, according to a press release from Matignon. The text should be presented to the Council of Ministers in the second half of June, where the state sets the date for the referendum.

>> Read: Referendum in New Caledonia: “no” with caution

“To ensure the unchanging nature of the organization of the referendum”, the Prime Minister proposes that the date of the referendum “on the accession to full sovereignty in New Caledonia” expire on September 6, 2020, be set for October 4, 2020, “said the press release.

Because even though “operations to prepare for the referendum continued” during the health crisis, “there is a risk of voting procedures,” Matignon explains.

“Make sure the referendum is organized without flaws”

“Our ability to collect 250 applications for national and international observers and to send them to New Caledonia within deadlines consistent with the three weeks quarantine required so far” for each arriving in New Caledonia “is not guaranteed,” the press release added.

Thanks to a drastic reduction in international flights and a very strict quarantine, New Caledonia has only registered 18 cases of Covid-19.

>> See: Covid-19: back to the course for some of the students from New Caledonia

In a letter to the government’s president, loyalist Thierry Santa (Avenir en Confiance, close to the Republicans) and to the Congress president, the independent Kanak Rock Wamytan (UC-FLNKS), the prime minister stressed that this difficulty to emerge within deadlines compatible with quarantine also arises ” the mission of international organizations and journalists “which led to the referendum.

It’s about “ensuring the irrevocable nature of the referendum’s organization, so that its results are undeniable and uncontested,” he argues.

Possible third referendum in 2022 when voting

After the first referendum, held on November 4, 2018 and saw the victory of “no” to independence (56.7%), the prime minister’s date had been set for a second referendum until September 6, 2020, less than two years after the first, according to Noumea agreement that organizes the gradual decolonization of the archipelago.

The new date of October 4 “allows to retain all possible alternatives aimed at simultaneously avoiding national elections in the spring of 2022” and “to envisage a possible third consultation in 2021 or 2022”, Edouard assures Philippe. “The government is committed to ensuring that the overall timetable for the consultation process is not changed,” he promises.

>> To read: Emmanuel Macron: “France wouldn’t be the same without New Caledonia”

If “no” to independence wins again in 2020, a third referendum can be held no later than 2022 under the Noumea agreement.

In recent weeks, the FLNKS separatists had officially asked for the referendum to be postponed to the end of October or early November to “avoid an overlap” with the campaign for the second round of municipal elections in late June. If the Calédonie Ensemble, a loyalist right-to-right formation is favorable for a launch, L’Avenir en Confiance opposes it.

With AFP