Sunday, November 4, 2018

New Caledonia Votes NO on Independence

This is a follow-up to Saturday's explainer on New Caledonia's referendum on independence from France. For more on New Caledonia's current status and what would have happened if the vote had passed, see that article.

The islands of New Caledonia, and their location in the South Pacific. Map by NormanEinstein (CC BY-SA; source)
The results are in for yesterday's independence referendum in New Caledonia, and a majority of voters have chosen not to leave France.

However, voter turnout was very high, at about 81%, apparently representing a surge of support for independence: According to preliminary results, the NO vote won by 56% to 44%, a much smaller margin than predicted in any of the opinion polls.

So what happens next? Well, for now New Caledonia will keep its current status as an autonomous region of France (see our pre-referendum explainer for more details on that status). But the islands could still become independent in the coming years.

Flag of France

New Caledonia Kanak flag
The French Tricolor (top) and the "Kanak flag" (bottom) are co-official flags of New Caledonia
Official Name:
• New Caledonia (English) 
• Nouvelle-Calédonie (French)
Capital: Nouméa
Sui generis ("one of a kind") special collectivity of France
• Overseas country/territory of the European Union
That's because the Nouméa Accord that paved the way for this referendum also allows for two more independence votes  - one in 2020 and another in 2022. If yesterday's referendum had failed by a huge margin as opinion polls predicted, anti-independence parties in New Caledonia might have argued that the question was settled, and that the other two votes wouldn't be necessary.

However, since the margin turned out to be relatively close, it seems likely that pro-independence politicians can keep alive plans for a follow-up vote two years from now. If and when that happens, you can count on PolGeoNow to be covering the events!

Graphics of New Caledonia's flags are in the public domain (source).