In Brief

New Caledonia rejects independence from France

But pro-independence leaders say tight result indicates the country will eventually decolonise

Voters in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia have decided not to forge ahead with plans to become an independent nation, following a narrow result in a national referendum.

The final results showed that 56.4% of voters decided to remain part of France, while 43.6% elected to leave, which the BBC reports is a “tighter result than some polls had predicted”.

The ballot for independence was promised in a 1988 deal that was designed to put an end to a spate of violent and deadly clashes between the native Kanak population, who make up 39.1% of the population, and French government authorities.

Three ballots were promised as part of the deal – two more votes are able to be held between now and 2022, with pro-independence leaders claiming that the close result is a positive indication that New Caledonia will join Djibouti and Vanuatu in decolonising from France.

French President Emmanuel Macron has hailed the vote as a signal that one of France’s most remote territories, roughly halfway between Australia and Fiji, still has faith in governance from Europe.

“The majority of Caledonians have chosen France: it's a sign of confidence in the French republic, in its future and its values," Macron told France 24 when the results of the ballot were announced.

The Guardian reports that Macron “understood the disappointment of those who wanted independence, but added that the French state would ensure liberty, equality and fraternity for everyone”.

The result of the referendum was not without incident, with demonstrations in the streets of the capital Noumea, where cars and several shops were set ablaze in protest of the outcome.

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