Macron Postpones Change in Voting Rules in New Caledonia

(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron said he would postpone a change in voting rules in the French territory of New Caledonia to give parties time to negotiate a new agreement.

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“We’re giving ourselves a few weeks,” Macron said in New Caledonia, after days of violent protests in the South Pacific archipelago sparked by the proposed change to the voting franchise. “So things can calm down, dialogue can restart, with the aim of reaching a broad agreement.”

Macron added that he wouldn’t force through the bill and said he will set up a working group to shape a new, more comprehensive agreement on the future of the territory. He said he’d check back on the situation on the ground in a month. Any agreement should be voted on by New Caledonians, he added.

Protests erupted this month in the Pacific territory of 270,000 people over a change in the law that would expand the number of residents of the islands who are eligible to vote. Critics of the draft bill, approved recently by the National Assembly and the Senate in Paris, say it would dilute the power of the indigenous Kanak population, fueling old tensions between local communities.

Paris declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia after several people were killed and businesses and cars were torched in violent protests.

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Macron said that the state of emergency could be lifted once violence ends there. He also pledged emergency aid to for damage caused by the violence.

--With assistance from Samy Adghirni.

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