In brief

Referendum result encourages New Caledonia, Polynesia independence supporters

New Caledonians reject secession from France, but more than 43% vote for full sovereignty

Citizens' line waiting to vote in referendum.
Citizens' line waiting to vote in referendum. Author: FLNKS
The self-determination referendum held yesterday in New Caledonia left a relatively surprising result as 43.6% voted for secession from France, even if opinion polls had predicted that independence supporters would be no more than 35%. With the “no” camp gathering 56.4% of the votes, full sovereignty for the Pacific territory was rejected this time, but two new referendums can be held in 2020 and 2022 under the terms of the Nouméa Agreement.

The pro-independence movement now believes that it is possible to win one of those upcoming referendums. “We are close [to victory]”, spokesman for the Kanak Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS) Aloisio Sako said, “and we still have two more referendums left”. The two referendums must be held if one third of the members of the New Caledonia Congress ask it. The pro-independence camp currently holds 46% of the seats.

Referendum results reverberated too in Polynesia, another French Pacific territory. Main pro-independence party Tavini Huiraatira seized the opportunity to again call on France the holding of its own self-determination referendum. “France has a sacred mission”, the party said, “that is to provide for the emancipation of the peoples it colonized.”

Tavini Huiraatira has for years been calling for a referendum. Polynesia has been included in the official UN list of non-decolonised territories since 2013. New Caledonia has also been, since 1986.