New Caledonia votes to stay in France as independence movement boycotts referendum

New Caledonia voted Saturday to remain part of France, Reuters report.

The South Pacific Islands have a population of about 250,000. It became a French colony in 1853, granted equal citizenship to its native residents in 1957, and received a degree of autonomy in 1988.

About 44% of voters are eligible to vote and of those, 96.5% are marked “Is not“to refuse independence. In 1998 Treaty of Noumea between France and New Caledonia has stipulated three independence referendums to be held in 2018, 2020 and 2022. The first two referendums rejected independence with a margin of 57-43 and 53-years respectively. 47.

The landslide is here referendum was due to the pro-independence movement’s decision to boycott the vote after the French government refused to postpone the vote. Representatives of the island’s indigenous Kanaks, a majority pro-independence, asked for the vote to be postponed as they have yet to show up after 12 months of traditional mourning.

“I … want to say how proud I am as the president of the republic from which the majority of the Caledonian people have chosen France,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a speech on Sunday and accessible with an English translation via France24.

“This referendum, for us, is not a third referendum. We consider that there are only two legal referendums, 2018 and 2020. This referendum is a referendum of the French state, not ours,” Roch Wamytan, Speaker of the New Caledonian Congress, said on Franceinfo radio.

Under the terms set forth in Nouméa, representatives of all the parties involved must now “meet to consider the situation thus created” and to renegotiate the terms of New Caledonia’s semi-autonomous regime. However, some observers worry that the perception among independence advocates in Caledonia that the referendum is ultimately illegitimate could lead to instability.

The retention of New Caledonia was a victory for French influence abroad, allowing France to continue operating in the South Pacific as Chinese influence in the region grew. The French military maintains a base in New Caledonia – one of only two France has in the Pacific – and cooperates with the US, Australia and New Zealand on various regional security initiatives. New Caledonia votes to stay in France as independence movement boycotts referendum


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