2018 New Caledonian independence referendum
|New Caledonian independence referendum, 2018|
|Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?|
|Date||4 November 2018|
|Website: Referendum 2018|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
Announced in the evening of polling day, the result was 56.4% for maintaining the status quo and 43.6% in favour of independence. The turnout was 81% of the 174,995 voters eligible to vote in this referendum. Recent inhabitants who are registered to vote in general elections were ineligible to vote in the referendum, as agreed in the 1998 Nouméa Accord, representing 17% of the total of 210,105 registered voters of New Caledonia.
Prior to the vote, the government and authorities in Metropolitan France stated that they would recognise and abide by the results of the referendum. Despite the failure of the motion, New Caledonians will, under the terms of the Nouméa Accord, have the opportunity to vote again in 2020 and (if that vote fails as well) in 2022 if one third of the Congress of New Caledonia, the local legislature, agree to allow those votes to be held.
New Caledonia was formally annexed by France in 1853, and Europeans and Polynesians, as well as other settlers, have since made the indigenous Kanaks a minority (27%, 11% and 39% respectively in the 2014 census). The territory was used as a penal colony from 1864 to 1897, and the Kanaks were "excluded from the French economy and from mining work, and ultimately confined to reservations". Between 1976 and 1988, conflicts between the French government and the independence movement saw periods of serious violence and disorder (culminating in the Ouvéa cave hostage taking in 1988), with the emerging Kanak independence movement gaining support from many Kanaks frustrated with their lower socio-economic status and lack of involvement in the economy, seen as problems caused by the French "exploitation". Though GDP per capita (nominal) is high at $38,921 and though New Caledonia is a major producer of nickel, there is significant inequality in income distribution, with many claiming that the mining revenue benefits people outside the territory and its (declining) mining communities.
Since 1986, the United Nations Committee on Decolonization has included New Caledonia on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The 1987 New Caledonia independence referendum, the first referendum on independence, was held the following year on 13 September 1987, but independence was rejected by a large majority, with 842 people (1.7%) voting for independence and 48,611 people (98.3%) voting to remain a part of France. Many pro-independence groups, such as the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), boycotted the vote. The participation was 59.10%.
The Matignon Agreements, signed on 26 June 1988 by Jean-Marie Tjibaou and Jacques Lafleur, set up a ten-year period of stability and made certain provisions for the Kanak population. The Nouméa Accord, signed 5 May 1998 by the French government and the main independence and anti-independence parties, set in motion a 20-year transition period that transferred certain powers to the local government and laid the groundwork for an independence referendum in 2018.
The Nouméa Accord stated a vote must take place by the end of 2018. On 2 November 2017, Édouard Philippe, the French Prime Minister, led a meeting to begin work on the referendum of independence, to be held by November 2018. On 20 March 2018, it was announced that the independence referendum would be held on 4 November 2018.
In New Caledonia, there are three electoral rolls: one general roll for the Congress, French president and French Parliament consisting of all French citizens, one special roll for elections to the provincial assemblies, and one liste électorale spéciale (LESC, a special electoral roll for referendums). To be registered on the LESC, voters had to fulfill at least one of the following conditions:
- Registration on the special electoral roll for the 1998 New Caledonian Nouméa Accord referendum (or fulfilled its requirements but not registered)
- Born in New Caledonia and registered in the special electoral list for the provinces (LESP)
- Residence in New Caledonia for a continuous period of 20 years
- Born before 1 January 1989 and lived in New Caledonia from 1988 to 1998
- Born after 1 January 1989 with a parent who was on the special electoral roll for the 1998 Nouméa Accord referendum (or who fulfilled its requirements but was not registered)
- Born in New Caledonia with three years' continuous residence (prior to 31 August 2018).
According to a statement made by the independentist party FLNKS on 18 September 2018, 63% of the 174,154 registered voters on the LESC were Kanak, for a total of 109,892; of these, 80,120 belonged to the droit coutumier (common law) and 29,772 to the droit civil (civil law). Vote restriction restricts the voting power of recent inhabitants— derogatively known as Zoreilles—and enlarges the voting power of native Kanaks, and was long sought after by FLNKS.
The question for the referendum was:
Voulez-vous que la Nouvelle-Calédonie accède à la pleine souveraineté et devienne indépendante ?
English translation: "Do you want New Caledonia to attain full sovereignty and become independent?"
|Polling firm||Fieldwork date||Sample size||For||Against||Undecided/
|Harris Interactive||12–22 Sep 2018||1,038||34||66||–||32|
|Quidnovi||1–15 Aug 2018||731||20||69||11||49|
|I-Scope||30 Jul–8 Aug 2018||628||28||63||9||35|
|Quidnovi||4–15 Jun 2018||739||15||65||21||50|
|Quidnovi||16–26 Apr 2018||712||15||58||27||43|
|I-Scope||16–25 Apr 2018||682||22.5||59.7||17.8||37.2|
|I-Scope||23 Mar–4 Apr 2017||514||24.4||54.2||21.4||29.8|
Polling stations—a total of 284, distributed across all New Caledonia's communes—were open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on 4 November. Voters were given pre-printed ballot papers marked OUI (yes) and NON (no) and instructed to indicate their choice by placing one of the two inside an envelope and depositing it in the ballot box.
Provisional results issued that evening by the French government indicated that 56.4% of the votes cast were in favour of maintaining the territory's current status against 43.6% for independence: a tighter margin of victory than polling had forecast and commentators had expected.
The turnout rate of over 80%, surpassing figures reported in both the 2014 election for the territorial Congress and the 2017 French presidential election, was also described as "exceptional".
The regional results were very polarised, with several provinces voting one way or the other by large margins. Four provinces had greater than 90% support for independence; two others had greater than 90% opposition to independence. In the capital, four-fifths of votes were against independence.
|Source: Government of New Caledonia|
Support for independence was highest in the North Province and in the Loyalty Islands, which have Kanak majorities (73.8 and 96.6% respectively in 2009) and lower population densities (5.3 and 9.2/km² in 2014, respectively) than South Province (29/km²).
|Loyalty Islands Province||10,631||82.18||2,305||17.82||21,406||61.17|
|Île des Pins||67.32%||32.68%||0.78%||0.99%||82.47%|
|Source: Government of New Caledonia|
This section needs expansion with: more details. You can help by adding to it. (November 2018)
Aloisio Sako, a leading member of the independentist FLNKS and president of the Pacific Democratic Rally, a political party representing ethnic Wallians and Futunians in New Caledonia, was optimistic about what he saw as a narrow loss for his side, saying "We're a short step away from victory and there are still two votes to come".
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