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In Historic Vote, French Territory Rejects Independence

Turnout hit 80% in New Caledonia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 5, 2018 12:03 AM CST
Pro-independence voters in the streets of Noumea, New Caledonia's capital, Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018.   (AP Photo/Mathurin Derel)
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(Newser) – A majority of voters in the South Pacific territory of New Caledonia chose to remain part of France instead of backing independence Sunday, a watershed moment that led French President Emmanuel Macron to promise a full dialogue on the archipelago's future. Final results had 56.4% of the voters who participated in the referendum deciding to maintain ties with the country that has ruled New Caledonia since the mid-19th century and 43.6% supporting independence, the high commissioner's office said. "I'm asking everyone to turn toward the future to build tomorrow's New Caledonia," Macron said, speaking from the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris. "The spirit of dialogue is the sole winner."

More than 174,000 registered voters were invited to answer the question: "Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?" The referendum attracted record-high turnout of 80.6%—so many voters that some polling stations in the capital, Noumea, had to stay open about an hour longer than planned to handle the crush, the AP reports. The high commissioner's office reported limited outbreaks of unrest in Noumea as votes were counted, with seven cars set ablaze, some roads closed, and two instances of stone-throwing. But otherwise the vote was overwhelmingly peaceful. Praising both sides for their "responsible" campaigns, Macron said "contempt and violence" were the only losers in the historic poll.

(Read more New Caledonia stories.)

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