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Three killed as New Caledonia rocked by riots over voting change

By RFI
Europe via REUTERS - LILOU GARRIDO NAVARRO KHERACHI
WED, 15 MAY 2024 LISTEN
via REUTERS - LILOU GARRIDO NAVARRO KHERACHI

Three people have been killed in New Caledonia during rioting that broke out after France's National Assembly approved changes to voting rules. Many injuries were reported in the worst unrest the Pacific island has seen since the 1980s. 

Schools and shops remain closed on Wednesday as unrest continued following the vote by lawmakers in Paris late Tuesday.  

Gunshots were heard in the early morning despite a night-time curfew that has been extended to Thursday. 

Those killed were young indigenous Kanak people, a spokesperson for New Caledonian leader Louis Mapou said citing information provided by police. 

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said hundreds of people, including police, had been hurt in protests that turned violent on Monday.  

Shops looted and vehicles set on fire, prompting authorities to ban public gatherings and shut the main airport. 

Constitutional reform

The rule changes are part of a constitutional reform in the French overseas territory that increases the number of people eligible to participate in elections. 

Under the bill, which still needs to pass a second round before coming law, French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years will be allowed to vote in provincial elections. 

Pro-independence leaders fear this will dilute the Kanak vote. 

Both French President Emmanuel Macron and Mapou have called for calm and dialogue. 

FLNKS , the main pro-independence political group, said would accept the offer and was willing to work toward an agreement "that would allow New Caledonia to follow its path toward emancipation". 

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