France bans election weekend rallies, extends curfew in New Caledonia

French authorities said gatherings in the Pacific territory of New Caledonia would be banned this weekend and a curfew extended, weeks after deadly riots and as the country prepares for high-stakes snap polls starting Sunday.

France is on tenterhooks ahead of legislative elections which could see the far right take the largest number of seats in parliament.

The first round takes place on Sunday, followed by a second round on 7 July.

The High Commission, which represents the French state in the archipelago, announced a ban on gatherings from Saturday morning until Sunday evening in New Caledonia, which was hit by the deadly unrest last month.

"In order to pursue security efforts... gatherings will be prohibited from 6:00 am Saturday June 29 (1900 GMT Friday) to 8:00 pm Sunday June 30," the High Commission said in a statement.

In mid-May, rioting and looting erupted in New Caledonia over an electoral reform plan that Indigenous Kanak people feared would leave them in a permanent minority, putting independence hopes definitively out of reach.

The High Commission also said that the 8:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew in place since the start of the riots had been extended until 8 July.

High Commissioner Louis Le Franc noted that the situation "had improved", but pointed out that public infrastructure had recently sustained "very serious damage."

(with AFP)

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