A 2nd Sunday referendum on independence from France

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Last straight line for New Caledonia, a strategic territory of 270,000 inhabitants in the Pacific, which must decide on Sunday during a second self-determination referendum whether it remains French or chooses independence.

In this archipelago 18,000 kilometers from Paris, French since 1853 and which represents one of the last bastions of European sovereignty in the area after Brexit, a first ballot on November 4, 2018 saw the pro-French win by 56 , 7% of the votes.

Nearly 180,000 voters in the territory, which has significant nickel reserves, will have to say again if they want “for New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent”.

This referendum, like the first, is part of a process of decolonization that began in 1988 after several years of violence between the Kanaks, the first people, and the Caldoches, of European origin. These clashes culminated in the taking of hostages and the assault on Ouvéa cave in May 1988 (25 dead).

The Matignon agreements, signed in June 1988 by the Kanak independentist Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the loyalist Jacques Lafleur, consolidated ten years later by the Nouméa agreement, established an economic and geographical rebalancing in favor of the Kanaks and a sharing of political power, even if social inequalities remain significant.

The consultation, the result of which will be known on Sunday evening (Sunday morning in metropolitan France), will take place without barrier or mask measures, since the archipelago is free of Covid-19, thanks to a drastic reduction in international flights and a mandatory quarantine for everything. arriving. “The virus, we don’t even think about it anymore. People are more worried about the results of the referendum than about the Covid, ”Hugues Bourgeois, general practitioner, told AFP.

A few days before the poll, supporters of French New Caledonia repeatedly marched through Noumea in a procession of cars, waving tricolor flags. Independence activists also demonstrated, by car, on foot or in boats, with Kanak flags.

Thursday, during the last meetings, the separatists of the FLNKS (National Socialist Kanak Liberation Front) called for a yes “for dignity”, the Loyalists (front of six non-independence parties) for a “no” to “chaos” .

“Stirring up hatred”

“Whether the yes or the no wins”, Viannick, 46, wants to be “serene”. “Here in Koumac (North), we have always lived together”. But she finds that “this referendum is a disaster. Each camp spends its time criticizing the other. They are stoking hatred. ”

While the first ballot was welcomed by all, the new consultation was marked by controversy, in particular on the electorate, the date of the referendum, registrations in decentralized polling stations …

No poll has been carried out, but observers deem a “yes” victory unlikely. “The majority will not change”, predicts the President of the Caledonian government Thierry Santa (loyalist) to AFP, “everyone knows that there will be no change on Sunday. The whole question will be to know the extent of the gap “between the two camps.

This gap (18,000 votes in 2018) could narrow. “There are places where we can still go to seek abstainers (33,000)”, in particular “in the Loyalty Islands”, very favorable to the independence camp, according to the doctor in geopolitics Pierre-Christophe Pantz.

Held to impartiality, President Emmanuel Macron will not speak until the day after the referendum. In 2018, he stressed that “France would be less beautiful without New Caledonia”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex indicated that he would bring together “the Caledonian political players the day after” the consultation.

According to the Noumea agreement, in the event of a “no” victory, a third referendum is possible by 2022. An option that the loyalists already refuse.

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