Chaos in New Caledonia: Three Dead as Riots Erupt Following Paris' Voting Change Approval

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Rioting broke out this week before lawmakers in Paris voted on a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

Three people have been killed in unrest in New Caledonia, an official said, as rioting continued and stores and schools remained shut on Wednesday after France's National Assembly approved changes to voting rules in the Pacific island.

The three dead were young indigenous Kanak, said a spokesman for New Caledonia's president Louis Mapou. He said the information was provided by police.

Rioting broke out this week before lawmakers in Paris voted on a bill to allow French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote in provincial elections - a move some local leaders fear will dilute the Kanak vote.

French President Emmanuel Macron and New Caledonia's president Louis Mapou called for calm and dialogue.

French officials said one person had been found shot dead in an industrial zone, with High Commissioner Louis le Franc saying the shot did not come from police but "from someone who probably was defending himself".

The French government said the change in voting rules, which lawmakers backed by 351 to 153 in favour, was needed so elections would be democratic in the country's territory.

Macron has offered to hold dialogue between New Caledonia's pro- and anti-independence camps before a special congress of the two houses of parliament rubber-stamps the bill.

The major pro-independence political group, Front de Liberation Nationale Kanak et Socialiste (FLNKS), said in a statement on Wednesday it would accept Macron's offer of dialogue and was willing to work toward an agreement "that would allow New Caledonia to follow its path toward emancipation".

On Wednesday morning, Lilou Garrido Navarro Kherachi, 19, drove around protestor blockades in Noumea and saw burning cars and buildings, including a ruined veterinary clinic where the neighbors had evacuated the animals before the fire spread.