Naumia, New Caledonia (AP) – Most voters in New Caledonia, an archipelago in the South Pacific, elected Sunday to remain part of France rather than support for independence, in a referendum that would have been three miles long in a mile. The stone was marked. Decolonization attempt.
In a television address from Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed “an expression of faith in the Republic … with a sense of gratitude and humility.”
Macron promised pro-independence supporters “This is with you, we will all together build New Caledonia tomorrow.”
He praised the vote’s “success” and called on New Caledonia residents to “look to the future”.
The Foreign Ministry said the results are 53.3% of voters who participated in the referendum on Sunday, who have chosen to maintain relations with France, while 46.7% supported independence.
The vote is marked by very high turnout. According to the Foreign Ministry, more than 85% of voters cast their ballots an hour before the closing of the polling stations.
Some polling stations in Naumiya, the capital, were delayed by an hour as people were still waiting in long lines to vote at the planned closing time.
Sunday’s independence referendum was one of the final stages of the plans that began in 1988, to relieve tensions over the archipelago between native Kanak with freedom and residents wanting to live in France. The South Pacific Islands have been part of France since 1853.
Two years ago, 56.4% of the voters who took part in a similar referendum opted to maintain the archipelago’s relationship with Paris.
“Today is like no other day. Everyone woke up with a desire to express themselves (via vote). It’s a historic day, “60-year-old Robert Wyridry told The Associated Press.
Corinne Florentin, who was born 52 years ago in Nouma, said she voted against independence because she wants “French”.
“We can live together, all races together, and design our common future,” she said.
Guillaume Paul, an 18-year-old student at the University of New Caledonia, also voted “no” because he wants the archipelago to maintain its relationship with France.
“If it were independent, what would the country be?” There is a real danger that without the funding brought by France, the university will disappear, ”he said.
But 22-year-old Joachim Nimbo was in favor of independence.
“We want our identity, our culture. I think we are capable of managing ourselves, ”he said.
25-year-old Tague Vence also voted “yes” for independence.
“We need to return to tradition, to work in the fields, to be with the tribe. Modern life is very complicated for us, ”he said.
The archipelago now counts 270,000 inhabitants, including both native Kanaks, who were once strict segregation policies and widespread discrimination and descendants of European colonists.
New Caledonia became French in 1853 under Emperor Napoleon III – Napoleon’s nephew and heir and was used as a prison colony for decades. It became a foreign territory after World War II, in 1957 all Kanak were granted French citizenship.