The separatists in the French territory of New Caledonia do not want to recognize the outcome of the referendum on independence for the archipelago in the South Pacific. Congress President Roch Wamtain said the vote, in which 96.5 percent of respondents voted yesterday to stay with France, was “null and void”.
The election was overshadowed by a pro-independence boycott: just under 44 percent of the 185,000 eligible voters voted.
The majority had already spoken out against segregation in referendums in 2018 and 2020. In that time, far more people cast their votes. 56.4% and 53.3%, respectively, supported staying with France in the two votes.
The treaty provides for three referendums
The 1998 Noumea Accord provided for up to three votes as part of the decolonization of New Caledonia. Wamitan was one of the signatories at the time.
This is not our third referendum. “We believe that there were only two referendums in terms of legal and political legitimacy, 2018 and 2020. This is the referendum of the French state and its supporters in New Caledonia, not our referendum,” Wamitane said.
He called on his people to ask the question again over the next few years. But discussions on this matter with the government in Paris will not begin until after the presidential elections in France next April.
The separatists want a delay
The separatists had called for a boycott before the elections. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the proximity of elections in France, they called for the vote to be postponed. “We didn’t understand why the French president wouldn’t let us do that,” Wamitan said.
French head of state Emmanuel Macron saw the result as recognition of the French nation. Addressing the people of New Caledonia, he said: “France is proud to be your motherland.” However, Macron acknowledged that voters in the strategically important overseas territory remain deeply divided. In a transitional phase until June 2023, a new status for New Caledonia is to be prepared.
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