Sunday, October 4, 2020

New Caledonia Turns Down Independence Again

This is a follow-up to our article on New Caledonia's 2020 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 Sunday's independence referendum in New Caledonia and, as in 2018, the majority has voted against seceding from France.

However, the proportion of YES and NO votes wasn't the same as two years ago: Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, suggesting that more residents than ever before want an independent country for their island home. Voter turnout was also even higher than last time, rising from 81% to 85%.

So what happens next? Well, for now New Caledonia will keep its current status as an autonomous region of France. 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 one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. All it takes is for at least one-third of the region's legislature to vote in favor of holding the last referendum - and that body already has a pro-independence majority.

On the other hand, anti-independence politicians have called for a change of script now that secession has failed twice. One argument says the final referendum should instead give residents the option of going the other direction: further integration with France. But that could be very controversial, with many calling it a violation of the Nouméa Accord.

It's hard to predict the future. But whatever happens, you can count on PolGeoNow to be covering any and all future referendums on New Caledonia's status!

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