New Caledonia votes “No”

56.4% of population vote for unity with France, far below the 75% predicted by polls. French PM to travel to archipelago today, to begin dialogue.

Those in favour of unity with France won in yesterday’s independence referendum on the archipelago of New Caledonia, located 1,500 kilometres east of Australia. The vote was tighter than expected, with 56.4% of the votes in favour of unionism. The supporters of independence, thought to be largely made up of native Canac people, produced a much more significant result than expected, with 43.6% of the vote, in a referendum which had high turnout, at 80.6%. Independence leaders accepted the result, celebrated their high numbers, and asserted that they would return to the polls in 2020. Yesterday’s consultation represented the culmination of a unique process of decolonization, which began in 1988, after years of violent confrontations between the colonial power and the Canac people. However, despite the victory of a continued union with France, questions remain with regards to the future of New Caledonia. For instance, will the French authorities seek or agree a new agreement with the governing authorities of New Caledonia, in favour of increased self-governance? What can be done to reduce the great social inequalities suffered by the members of the indigenous people? “I want to express pride that most New Caledonians have opted for France,” said French President Emmanuel Macron during an interview after the announcement of the results, yesterday. The leader pointed out that “the only way forward is dialogue”. French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, will head to New Caledonia today, to meet with local political forces and immediately begin a post-referendum dialogue process.

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