New Caledonia, the French overseas territory of the South Pacific, holds a referendum on Sunday, which decides whether the islands will become a new independent state or retain their current status. Surveys show that supporters of the latter solution have an advantage.
Nearly 175,000 citizens can vote. They have to answer the question whether they want "New Caledonia to be full of sovereignty and independence".
New Caledonia referendum
Observers expect the participation in the referendum to be very high. At noon the local time was about 42 percent. Long lines before the election venue.
Votes predict a strong victory for fans in the French overseas territories. To this end, 63-75% of voters may vote.
The indigenous people – the Canadians looking for independence – and the descendants of the faithful French settlers in Paris have long been tense.
The referendum will be closely monitored by the Melanesia archipelago – the neighbors of Australia and New Zealand – which would surely prefer the new Caledonian relationship with France, which would mean that Europe's interests in the region that want to control the increasingly uncertain China will remain – writes AFP.
French President Emmanuel Macron stated that he did not want to participate in the election of the archipelago population. He added, however, that "France would be less beautiful without New Caledonia". He recalled that the area is of strategic importance in the region, which largely does not affect the United States, and where "China is building up his hegemony step by step".
Agreement with Numei
According to the signed pact, a referendum on independence must be held by the end of 2018. If the inhabitants of the archipelago do not vote Sunday on France, the agreement signed with Numei until 2022 requires two further independence referendums.
New Caledonia is receiving EUR 1.3 billion a year from Paris and many citizens fear that the archipelago can not survive without this financial support.
Foreign policy remains the responsibility of the French Government. The French Government is represented by the High Commissioner appointed by the President. In an administrative sense, New Caledonia is divided into three territorial units – provinces (northern, southern and loess islands).
The main island inhabited by nearly 280,000 people in New Caledonia lies about 1.2 thousand kilometers east of Australia and about 20,000 kilometers from Paris. A quarter of the world's nickel depositors are located on the archipelago, which are used, inter alia, for the manufacture of batteries.
New Caledonia became a French colony in 1853. Since 1946 it has been the French overseas territory, and since 1998 it has been a French "sui generis community" with extensive autonomy.
If the majority of the population, 45 percent of whom are indigenous to Kanakowie, become independent, then this will be the first area that has left France since 1980 when independence announced Vanuatu in the northern part of New Caledonia.
In 1985, the New Caledonia's emergency situation lasted for half a year and France sent additional armed forces. This was the so-called reaction Kanak rebellion. The conflict between indigenous peoples and settlers of European settlers is still visible today. Especially the guys who now support their independence.
The parties to the conflict signed an agreement in 1998 signed with the agreement of Numei, the capital of New Caledonia.
Author: mb // kg
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