Macron hails New Caledonia vote to ‘remain French’ | France News

Macron hails New Caledonia vote to ‘remain French’ | France News

The French archipelago of New Caledonia in the South Pacific appears set to remain part of France, according to partial results of an independence referendum.

Local TV network NC La 1ere reported that nearly 57 percent of voters had rejected secession in Sunday’s poll, with nearly two thirds of the ballots counted. Turnout stood at almost 80 percent, it said.

French President Emmanuel Macron, addressing reporters gathered at the Elysee Palace in the French capital, Paris, said the “majority” of New Caledonians had declared they wanted the territory to “remain French”.

“Voters were allowed to make a sovereign choice, with full knowledge of the facts and the relationship between New Caledonia and France,” Macron said on Sunday.

“I am proud we have finally passed this historic step together,” he added.

The final result is set to be declared later on Sunday evening.

More than 174,000 voters registered to take part in the ballot.

Al Jazeera’s Andrew Thomas, reporting from Sydney, Australia, said the initial results suggested a “victory for those that said New Caledonia was much better off economically as part of France”.

“France gives about $1.5bn a year to New Caledonia, that’s about 15 percent of its GDP, that would have been missed,” Thomas said.

“There was concern too that an independent new Caledonia would quickly fall under the sphere of influence of China, which has an increasing footprint right across the Pacific,” he added.

“Other Pacific island nations receive a lot of Chinese money in terms of aid projects and infrastructure but in return Beijing expects political favours.”

The referendum, the result of a 30-year long decolonisation process, is the first vote on self-determination to be held in a French territory since Djibouti in the Horn of Africa opted for independence during a poll in 1977.

Al Jazeera and news agencies

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