The residents of New Caledonia, who are French citizens and carry French passports, overwhelmingly rejected independence from France after all of the ballots were counted in today’s referendum on independence.
Only 3.5% of New Caledonia voters voted for parting ways with Paris, while the ‘No’ vote won by a whopping 95.5%.
Some observers reported low turnout however, with only 43.9% of eligible voters of the Pacific French territory coming to the polling stations.
New Caledonia‘s indigenous Kanak population, who are believed to be the main supporters of independence from France, called for a boycott of the referendum over a 12-month mourning period they announced after a spike in infections and deaths from COVID-19 in September.
Today’s referendum was the third such independence vote in New Caledonia. The results were much tighter in 2018 and 2020, with those seeking to remain with France only winning by 57% to 53%, respectively.
The series of independence referendums took place on the island in line with a 1988 deal, which followed a violent conflict between supporters and opponents of independence in the 1980s.
French President Emmanuel Macron has welcomed the result of Sunday’s plebiscite, saying that “the Caledonians have chosen to remain French” and insisting that they “decided that freely.”
The vote results have been touted as a major win for Macron as New Caledonia is said to be the cornerstone of his plan to boost French influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
“France became more beautiful because New Caledonia has decided to stay,” Macron said in a televised address on Sunday.
The president acknowledged though that “the electorate remained deeply divided over the years” on the independence issue, adding that a “period of transition is now starting” on the island.