New Caledonia independence refendum: Pacific island votes to stay a part of France

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New Caledonia is an archipelago within the southwest Pacific Ocean, round 1,120 kilometers (750 miles) east of Australia and 17,000 kilometers (10,500 miles) from metropolitan France.

Whereas some powers have been devolved to the islands, their inhabitants are French residents and vote within the nation’s elections, one in all 12 abroad territories France retained sovereignty over because the finish of colonialism.

Round 40% of the inhabitants are indigenous Kanaks, with the subsequent largest ethnic group being ethnic Europeans, at simply over 27% within the newest census.

What occurred?

Whereas the primary European to sight New Caledonia was British explorer James Cook dinner, who named it after the Latin time period for at the moment’s Scotland, the islands had been officially annexed by France in 1853 on the order of Emperor Napoleon III.
Within the wake of World Conflict II and a basic motion in the direction of decolonization worldwide, France adjusted the way it handled its colonies and autonomy was progressively elevated inside areas which didn’t win full self-rule. This coincided in current many years with greater organization by pro-independence events in New Caledonia.

After an often violent separatist marketing campaign, in 1998 the French authorities signed an settlement with an alliance of pro-independence political events, the Kanak and Socialist Nationwide Liberation Entrance (FLNKS), to carry three referendums on full independence slated for this 12 months, 2020 and 2022, ought to the native authorities want to maintain them.

“Would you like New Caledonia to realize full sovereignty and turn into impartial?” the islands’ 175,000 eligible voters were asked, with round 56% saying “no,” and 44% voting “sure.”
The outcome was a lot nearer than anticipated, with some pre-referendum polls exhibiting as much as 70% of voters backed remaining a part of France forward of Sunday’s vote.

Of New Caledonia’s three provinces, two — North Province and the Loyalty Islands — voted for independence whereas a majority of voters in South Province, which is basically ethnic European, selected to stick with France.

A photo taken on November 4, 2018 in Paris shows a TV screen displaying French President Emmanuel Macron delivering a speech after the results from an independence referendum in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

What was the response?

French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned after the vote that he was “proud that almost all of Caledonians have chosen to remain French.”

“It’s a mark of belief for France, our future and our values. Each one in all us can really feel and share on this delight,” mentioned Macron.

The French chief didn’t point out the potential of holding future referendums, noted Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes (LNC), the islands’ most important newspaper. The newspaper predicted that the sturdy exhibiting by the “sure” marketing campaign will probably be used as an argument for one more ballot in two years.

Nevertheless, the paper additionally famous that whereas a “overwhelming majority” of indigenous Kanaks voted for independence, different ethnic teams didn’t, which it mentioned confirmed a failure of pro-independence teams to win over voters exterior their historic assist base.

There was some minor violence publish referendum, with roads close to the capital blocked by wrecked vehicles and burning tires, according to La Première, a French public broadcaster which covers the nation’s abroad territories. Video posted by LNC confirmed closely armored police automobiles despatched to the realm to clear the affected roads.
Firefighters try to extinguish a house set on fire in downtown Noumea overnight on November 5, 2018, after the results from an independence referendum in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia.

What comes subsequent?

Given the pro-French sentiment forward of the polls, few supporters of independence anticipated victory on this weekend’s referendum. As an alternative, most had been seeking to the longer term.

“For us it is only a query of time, and that point in Oceania is measured in another way,” FLNKS independence spokesperson Daniel Goa said in a speech at Australia’s Lowy Institute final month.

“So long as a single Kanak individual is standing, he’ll struggle for his freedom,” he added. “We’re this nation, we’re this land, it’s Kanak and it’ll stay Kanak ceaselessly.”

An activist holds the pro-independant flag during a meeting of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) campaign for a 'yes' to New Caledonia's independence from France in Noumea.

Whereas an official date for the 2020 referendum has but to be agreed, it’s unlikely native authorities wouldn’t approve holding it as set out underneath the phrases of the 1998 settlement.

New Caledonia’s push for independence may even have a ripple impact within the area. Six different locations within the Pacific are included on the United Nation’s checklist of Non-Self-Governing Territories together with New Caledonia: American Samoa, French Polynesia, Guam (US territory), Pitcairn (British territory) and Tokelau (New Zealand territory).
Separatist sentiment has been growing in Australia too, which is ruled underneath a type of constitutional monarchy, during which the UK’s Queen Elizabeth II, as represented in Australia by the Governor-Common, is Australia’s head of state.



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