Nov. 4 (UPI) — Voters in the Pacific territory of New Caledonia on Sunday rejected a bid for independence from France.
With a turnout of 81 percent, 56.4 percent chose to remain part of France, according to final results. About 175,000 people were eligible to vote in the terrirory east of Australia. Indigenous Kanaks make up 39.1 percent of the population and ethnic Europeans comprise 27.1 percent.
Two referendums on independence can be held before 2022.
In a previous referendum in 1987, Kanaks boycotted the vote claiming the terms of voter eligibility were unfair. In Sunday’s referendum, only residents 20 years or longer can vote, excluding many white European migrants.
“Caledonians and New Caledonians have expressed themselves so that New Caledonia remains French,” France’s Preisent Emmanuel Macron posted on Twitter. “This historic step is a great pride for the Republic. One defeated, the temptation of division. Only one winner, peace. Now, let’s look to the future.”
In May while visiting the capitol, Noumea, Macros said France would be “less beautiful without New Caledonia.”
France has seen New Caledonia as an important asset because of large deposits of nickel, a vital component in manufacturing electronics.
In 1885, France first claimed the islands about 11,000 miles from the French mainland.
Previous French territories to break away were Djibouti in 1977 and Vanuatu in 1980.
New Caledonia is among the United Nations’ 17 “non-self governing territories.”