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Curfew Imposed in New Caledonia Following Protests Over Constitutional Change


The authorities in New Caledonia, a semiautonomous French territory in the South Pacific, put a curfew in place on Tuesday and banned all public gatherings after protests against a proposed constitutional change turned violent overnight.

France’s High Commission of the Republic in New Caledonia announced on Tuesday that a “massive mobilization” of security and defense forces has been sent to quell the protests. In addition, a curfew was imposed in the capital, Noumea, for Tuesday night, and all public gatherings were banned along with the sale of alcohol and the transportation of weapons, the High Commission said.

The latest protests started on Monday, before a scheduled Tuesday vote in the French Parliament on a change to New Caledonia’s Constitution that would expand French citizens’ eligibility to vote in provincial elections. Some pro-independence activists in the territory fear the amendment would water down their movement.

Many police officers were injured in the unrest, and shops, pharmacies, supermarkets and car dealers in the capital and some outlying areas sustained damage, the commission said on Tuesday morning. At least 36 people have been arrested, the commission said.

Tensions had been building for several weeks over the proposed constitutional change. Since 2007, the territory’s voter rolls have been effectively frozen, with only those who were listed in 1998 eligible to vote in subsequent elections.

The amendment would give voting rights to all French citizens who have lived in the territory for 10 years, effectively increasing the rolls by about 20,000 to 25,000 people, according to Adrian Muckle, a senior lecturer in history at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand who is an expert on New Caledonia. New Caledonia has a population of about 300,000.

This is a developing story.



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