Independence: New Caledonia Votes ‘No’ Again

A volunteer empties ballots box in a voting station of Noumea, New Caledonia [Mathurin Derel/AP Photo] (AP)

Independence: New Caledonia Votes 'No' Again - Vantage News Nigeria
A volunteer empties ballots box in a voting station of Noumea, New Caledonia [Mathurin Derel/AP Photo] (AP)
New Caledonia has a total of 304 polling stations and all ballots have been tallied.

The “No” vote won on Sunday with 53.26 percent

In a tightly-contested referendum, residents of the southern Pacific French territory of New Caledonia have once more narrowly rejected independence from France.

Voter turnout was reportedly very high.

This is the territory’s second of three possible referendums on independence.

An estimated 80% of New Caledonians are eligible to vote.

By voting NO, the 273,000 people of New Caledonia will keep generous subsidies from France, which provides $1.5bn in financial support annually.

Speaking on the outcome of the referendum, French President Emmanuel Macron, welcomed the result with a “deep feeling of gratitude”.

Two years ago, almost 57 percent of voters had also rejected independence. A third shot at independence referendum may be possible in 2022 if a third of the local assembly votes in favour.

New Caledonia was colonised by France in the mid-19th century and won greater autonomy and the right to hold up to three referendums on its political status under the Noumea Accord, signed between French and local leaders in 1998.

The agreement followed a 1988 peace deal that ended decades of conflict between the Indigenous Kanak people and the descendants of European settlers known as the Caldoches. Despite the Noumea Accord’s promise of a “common destiny” for all citizens, Kanaks, who comprise about 39 percent of the population, still experience higher levels of unemployment and poverty, as well as lower achievement in higher education.

In the 2018 referendum, the vast majority of those who voted for independence were Kanak, while those who supported continuing ties with France were either of European descent or from other non-Indigenous minority groups.

For the pro-independence campaigners, full sovereignty would have meant decolonisation, emancipation, reducing inequality, and their right to decide the future of the islands, including realigning their political and cultural allegiances to the wider community of Pacific Islands states.

The loyalists, however, say they are proud of their French heritage and say their high standards of living, as well as the good public services on the archipelago, are in large part due to French subsidies.

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