Macron's fishing threats would harm 'everybody' says expert
An independence referendum in New Caledonia on December 12, could cause a headache for the French President despite the resolve of pro-independence parties not to participate. The growing possibility of a pro-independence victory could see France derailing decolonisation in a bid to shore up its position in the Indo-Pacific.
The referendum will be the third and final consultation held under the 1998 Noumea accord – successor to the Matignon accords which ended instability and violence between the Kanak independence movement and local “loyalists” and the French state in 1988.
By organising this month’s referendum without the participation of the Indigenous Kanak people, who overwhelmingly support independence, France is undermining the innovative and peaceful decolonisation process of the last 30 years.
One reason for the pro-independence request to postpone the referendum until late 2022 is said to be a concern the April 2022 French presidential elections will result in national political interference.
In 2019, the French government and New Caledonia’s political parties agreed that the referendum should not take place in close proximity to the presidential elections for this reason.
President Macron has multiple issues looming over his Presidency
New Caledonia want an independence referendum
The delay is yet another embarrassment for Mr Macron in his bid to get re-elected.
The Indo-Pacific region is strategically important for France, yet recently a humiliating loss of a contract with the Australians to build a fleet of conventional submarines hurt Mr Macron, badly.
Suffering a defeat in an independence referendum over New Caledonia could possibly be the iceberg that sinks Mr Macron’s political ship.
The President is already under intense pressure at home.
The ongoing fishing wars with the UK has left French fishermen bitterly disappointed at the handling of the affair by officials in Paris.
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The Kanak People are for an independent state
Plenty of New Caledonians remain loyal to France
In spite of multiple threats against the UK, Paris has been unable to gain the momentum required to claim a victory by failing to win the support of Brussels, meaning he is fighting a lonely battle.
The fallout of the fishing wars is also adding to the failure to come to an agreement between the EU and the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
France is lobbying hard to push the UK into an economic corner, and Germany has reacted by telling both parties to come to an agreement sooner, rather than later.
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The French will not forget the pain caused during the yellow vest movement
Closer to home, Mr Macron's popularity has taken a hit with some claiming he is even less popular than predecessor Francois Hollande.
Memories of the Yellow Vest movement that rocked France in the early years of Mr Macron’s first term are also believed to have hurt his pubic appeal.
Immigration is a major election issue in France and the likes of Eric Zemmour and Marine le Pen will offer the traditional right-leaning voters a credible option for change.
However, it remains to be seen as to whether there is enough room for both far-right players to pose a credible threat to the Presidency.