New Caledonia rejects split from France in vote marred by boycott

Turnout of just 40% after pro-independence campaigners urged indigenous people not to participate

ByJulien Sartre

Residents of the Pacific territory of New Caledonia have voted overwhelmingly to remain part of France in a referendum boycotted by pro-independence groups.

In the third referendum on the matter, the decision to stay within the French republic was carried by 96.49% to 3.51%, but a turnout of just over 40% suggested the indigenous Kanak people have not given up on dreams of independence.

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said after the result that the territory would remain French and hailed it as a resounding confirmation of France’s role in the Indo-Pacific, but announced negotiations on the territory’s future status.

“A period of transition is beginning. Free from the binary choice of yes or no, we must now build a common project, while recognising and respecting the dignity of everyone,” he said.

The pro-independence Kanak and Socialist Liberation Front (FLNKS) had called for indigenous Kanaks not to participate in the vote, arguing that Covid – which has disproportionately affected Kanak and Pasifika communities – had made pro-independence campaigning impossible, as entire villages observe customary mourning rites.

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