Residents of the New Caledonia archipelago voted against independence from France in a referendum. With 53.26 percent of the vote, the pro-French camp got a narrow majority in the French overseas territory in the Pacific, which has special status and about 285,000 inhabitants.
It is the second time in two years that the pro-independence camp has failed to get the majority of the population behind it. Since New Caledonia became a French colony in 1853, there have been tensions between the native Kanakans and the French.
Sunday’s referendum was the second of three referendums maximum allowed under the 1998 Nouméa Accord, which outlines the decolonization process for New Caledonia. The island already enjoys a high degree of autonomy, but is highly dependent on France in matters such as defense and education, for example.
Some 86 percent of the population voted, more than expected after the first referendum in 2018. Now that the no camp has won, a third referendum can be held within two years if one third of the local parliament supports it.
French President Emmanuel Macron was quick to respond to the referendum result, speaking of a “deep sense of recognition”.