New Caledonia faced with uncertainty over Noumea Accord exit

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A law professor in Noumea says New Caledonia is now faced with a period of high uncertainty, be it political, economic or institutional.

Mathias Chauchat said referendum voters were made to believe that with yesterday’s no vote, the provisions of the 1998 Noumea Accord had become void.

The Noumea Accord lapsed with yesterday’s third referendum on full sovereignty.

However, Chauchat told Caledonia TV even after three no votes, the structures created by the Noumea Accord remain in place because their irreversibility is enshrined in the French constitution.

He said the no campaign was selling its supporters a dream of being able to change them like an organic law as it is possible in all other French overseas departments and territories.

But Chauchat said to change Accord provisions, there first needs to be a 60 percent majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate to alter the constitution, which in the current political situation is difficult.

He said the provisions cover the entire political construct, including the make-up of the electoral roll, of the assemblies and the collegial government as well as the economic re-balancing within the territory.

Chauchat said the French government may claim that the end of the Accord makes it obsolete, but he said this would end up in France’s Constitutional Court, where the pro-independence parties will continue their fight for respect of the Accord.

As a result, he said, New Caledonia is now faced with instability, particularly over plans to open the electoral roll to more recent arrivals from France, who under the Noumea Accord cannot vote in provincial elections.

The French supervisor of New Caledonia’s third and last independence referendum says the high level of abstention has had no impact on the sincerity of the vote.

Presenting the official result, Francis Lamy said the rules don’t make voting mandatory and there is no minimum participation required.

Turnout was 43.9 percent, down from almost 86 percent last year, following a boycott by the pro-independence camp.

96.5 percent voted against independence.

Lamy also said there has been no significant irregularity and polling was calm.

His assessment was based on reports from more than 250 magistrates and officials deployed to polling stations territory-wide.

SOURCE: RNZ PACIFIC/PACNEWS