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Macron is in trouble at home, thousands of miles away

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French President Emmanuel Macron has a lot on his plate. The European elections are coming up, and his party is expected to lose. Crazy preparation Paris Olympics. A man is being hunted for a brazen, deadly criminal. prison Break Shocked the country.

The last place many people want Macron to appear is On the plane One of the French territories in the Pacific has been the scene of frequent riots this week. But he arrived in New Caledonia on Thursday, accompanied by three ministers, on a mission to heal and listen to people. Many believe he is personally responsible for the riots.

“I come here with the determination to restore peace and with great respect and humility,” he said on arrival.

The unrest was triggered by last week’s impending vote by the National Assembly in Paris to expand voting rights in the region. Many local indigenous people worry that the law will hinder the long process of independence.

Macron plans to meet with local officials and civil society activists, thank the police and start a round of dialogue, before quickly hopping on a plane back to mainland France, more than 10,000 miles away.

In many ways, the trip was classic Macron, who feels that any dispute, no matter how heated, can be resolved by speaking to him privately. But given local distrust of the government, many saw his visit as not only brief but short-sighted.

“He is responsible for this problem,” said Jean-François Merle, a New Caledonia expert at the Jean Jaurès Foundation who advised former Prime Minister Michel Rocard during the region’s delicate peace talks in the 1980s. “I’m not sure there is a political commitment from all sides to engage in dialogue.”

The riots occurred in new caledoniaThe small island of about 270,000 people was the scene of its worst violence in decades last week: six people were killed, dozens were injured and about 400 businesses were damaged, many by arson.

French authorities announced in distant Paris state of emergency Hundreds of police officers have been deployed to the region to try to restore peace. On Wednesday, Macron said in New Caledonia that security forces will remain in place “as long as necessary” but that the state of emergency “should not be extended.”

“This trip comes too late,” said Martial Foucault, a political science professor who heads the French overseas territories department at Sciences Po in Paris. “No one expected Macron to go there.”

The discontent dates back to 2021, when Mr Macron insisted on holding the territory’s third independence referendum despite pleas from leaders of the Kanak indigenous community to delay the vote due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many communities have been devastated by the virus, and local custom prohibits political activity during periods of mourning.

Finally, Kanak leaders called for a boycott of the vote. They refused to accept the election results, 97% of voters Wanted the territory to remain in France, but only 44% of the population took part in the vote. Previous referendums showed much higher turnouts, with 57% and 53% voting in favor of France.

Macron and his government viewed the vote as decisive, ending a long-simmering independence debate, and he highlighted France’s foothold in the Indo-Pacific as a bulwark against China’s expanding influence.

It is unclear whether independence activists will meet with Macron during his brief visit this week. Many refused to meet France’s interior minister in February; a video conference with him last week was canceled due to a “lack of people willing to participate,” according to AFP.

In 1853, the French established New Caledonia as a penal colony and established a Explicit policies to turn indigenous populations into minorities.

Tensions and violence between pro-independence militants and loyalists reached a peak in the 1980s. deadly hostage takinga peace agreement called the Matignon Agreement was signed.

This agreement, and the subsequent Noumea Accords, gradually transferred most political power to the Kanak community, formally recognized their culture and customs, and held three referendums on independence.

As the new century dawned, the independence referendum vote was postponed for another twenty years. French authorities agreed to freeze the electoral roll so that those who had recently arrived in New Caledonia and were considered more likely to support French rule could not influence the vote.

For pro-independence forces, last week’s parliamentary vote to expand voting rights by giving people who have lived in New Caledonia for more than 10 years the right to vote in the upcoming provincial elections threatens a delicate balance.

The French government sees the bill as a much-needed amendment to the democratic process, while local Kanak leaders say it removes a protection that was meant to prevent them from being reduced to a smaller minority on their land.

Trepid said Mr Macron could speak his mind but without a commitment to block the passage of new laws and draft a new referendum, he did not expect any Kanak leader to listen. “Macron’s political amnesia and his political movement are irresponsible,” he said.

The government does not face a social protest movement typical of, or even similar to, France. riot broke out Last summer, Mr Treppide added: “He was dealing with a people who were fighting for decolonization and who would never back down.”

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