Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Bougainville Votes to Leave Papua New Guinea

Where is Bougainville island located? Map of Bougainville's location within Papua New Guinea.
Bougainville (in red) is currently part of Papua New Guinea.
(modified from a public-domain UN map)

Independence option wins in Bougainville referendum

Three weeks ago we reported on Bougainville's independence referendum - a non-binding vote on whether to split from Papua New Guinea and become a separate country.

After two weeks of voting, the results are finally in: More than 98% of Bougainvilleans have voted in favor of independence.

Though the independence option was expected to win, analysts hadn't dared predict it would win by such a huge margin. Under other circumstances such a nearly-complete win might sound suspicious, but this referendum was carefully supervised by an international commission, and the results are thought to be accurate.

Learn More: What is Bougainville, and why was it voting on independence?

Flag of Bougainville
Short Name:
• Bougainville (English) 
• Bogenvil (Tok Pisin)
Full Official Name:
• Autonomous Region of Bougainville (English) 
• otonomos region bilong Bogenvil (Tok Pisin)
Buka (interim)
• Arawa (traditional; inactive)
Status: Autonomous region within Papua New Guinea

Will Bougainville become independent now?

As discussed in our Bougainville referendum explainer article, the referendum results don't automatically create a new independent country. The deal is that negotiations will now begin between the national government of Papua New Guinea and the local government of Bougainville on how to proceed.

The Papua New Guinean government isn't legally obligated to let Bougainville declare independence, and has said it prefers for the island region not to separate. But it's thought that such a clear referendum result will create huge political pressure to allow it, and we may soon be seeing the creation of the world's newest independent country.

For more details on the process and expected outcomes, check out our Bougainville referendum explainer from last month.

Want to know how it all turns out? Stay tuned to PolGeoNow for more Bougainville updates! You can check for new articles by viewing all Bougainville updates.

Graphic of the Bougainvillean flag is in the public domain (source).