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France declares emergency amid unrest over electoral reform, 200 arrested .

France has declared a state of emergency in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory, following violent protests against electoral reforms. The protests resulted in the deaths of one police officer and three others, marking the worst violence the archipelago has experienced in decades. The tensions stem from long-standing conflicts over France’s role in the territory. Government spokesperson Prisca Thevenot called for calm and urged the resumption of political dialogue to find a solution to the violence. The state of emergency went into effect on Wednesday, granting local authorities expanded powers to maintain public order and safety. French President Emmanuel Macron’s office released a statement condemning all violence and promising a relentless response to restore order. French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal expressed concern over the intensity of the violence and emphasized that the state of emergency would allow for the deployment of necessary resources to restore peace. The protests began as French lawmakers prepared to vote on electoral reforms that aimed to expand voting rights in New Caledonia. Critics argue that these reforms may marginalize the Indigenous Kanak population and favor pro-French politicians. The National Assembly adopted the revision, but it still requires the approval of both chambers of parliament to become law. The Kanak people, who make up about 40% of the territory’s population, have long sought independence, while European descendants wish to remain part of France. Under the 1998 Noumea Accord, voting was restricted to Kanaks and individuals born before 1998. However, the new constitutional measure would allow anyone who has been a resident of New Caledonia for ten years to vote in local elections, diluting the power of the Kanaks. The unrest has resulted in numerous injuries, including about 100 police officers and gendarmes. Houses, businesses, and public buildings have been burned and looted. French authorities have made arrests and deployed additional police officers and gendarmes to restore order. They have also imposed an overnight curfew and banned gatherings in the capital, Noumea. New Caledonia, known for its mineral wealth, was annexed by France in 1853, granting French citizenship to all inhabitants in 1957. However, tensions have persisted over the issue of independence. The 1998 Noumea agreement provided for three referendums to decide the territory’s future, but each one rejected independence. The most recent vote, held in December 2021, was boycotted by pro-independence parties due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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