The Associated Press – NOUMEA, New Caledonia – A majority of voters in the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia chose to remain part of France instead of backing independence Sunday, a watershed moment that led French President Emmanuel Macron to promise a full dialogue on the archipelago’s future.
Final results had 56.4 per cent of the voters who participated in the referendum deciding to maintain ties with the country that has ruled New Caledonia since the mid-19th century and 43.6 per cent supporting independence, the high commissioner’s office said.
“I’m asking everyone to turn toward the future to build tomorrow’s New Caledonia,” Macron said, speaking from the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. “The spirit of dialogue is the sole winner.”
More than 174,000 registered voters were invited to answer the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?” The referendum attracted record-high turnout of 80.6 per cent — so many voters that some polling stations in the capital, Noumea, had to stay open about an hour longer than planned to handle the crush.
The vote itself was a milestone in New Caledonia’s three decades of decolonization, a process prompted by the ill treatment Europeans inflicted on the region’s indigenous Kanak people. New Caledonia, an archipelago east of Australia, has a nickel mining industry as well as sun-kissed lagoons.
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