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.