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New Caledonia holds independence referendum

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New Caledonia holds independence referendum

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Photo: CGTN

New Caledonians will vote today in a referendum on whether to remain within the French Republic.

France first colonised the Pacific archipelago in 1853. In 1988, the French and indigenous communities agreed to allow New Caledonians to hold up to three self-determination referendums until the end of 2022 or until one passed.  The final results of the first referendum, held in 2018, saw 56.4% of voters elect to remain part of France while 43.3% voted to leave.

Today’s referendum is not compulsory, so voter turnout will be important determinant of which side emerges victorious. Since pro-independence vote was unexpectedly high in the last referendum, the anti-independence “Loyalists” rallied to mobilise 33,000 people who did not vote in 2018. The pro-independence movement is also courting smaller left-wing and trade union groups that abstained in 2018 as well as minority Pacific Islander voters.

Support for independence remains at less than 50%. For the pro-independence faction to succeed in this referendum, its supporters will need to maximise turnout. Even if the pro-independence movement fails in this referendum, a narrow loss will help to boost the movement’s energy in advance of the third, and final, referendum before the 2022 deadline.

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