New Caledonia says “no” in referendum on independence from France

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More than 53.2% of voters said they wanted their territory to remain French, resulting in a result that French President Emmanuel Macron hailed “with a deep sense of gratitude” and “humility,” in a solemn speech by the ‘Elysée in Paris.

Despite the overall result, support for independence is growing in New Caledonia, colonized by France in 1853. More than 46.7% of the votes cast were in favor of independence, against 43.3% in the last year. November 2018 vote.

The participation rate was over 85% because the survey was conducted without masks or social distancing measures. The pandemic has largely spared the archipelago, which has kept the number of Covid-19 cases very low by drastically reducing international flights and imposing a mandatory quarantine for all arrivals.

The referendum was part of a decolonization plan under the Noumea Accord, concluded in 1998, which ended a deadly conflict between the predominantly pro-independence indigenous Kanak population and the descendants of European settlers. Another referendum can be held by 2022 if at least a third of the local legislature requests it.

Located between Australia and Fiji, New Caledonia gives France a strategic position in the Pacific Ocean, where China is expanding its influence, as well as significant nickel reserves. It has a population of 270,000 inhabitants.

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