Despite the overall result, support for independence is growing in New Caledonia, which was colonized by France in 1853. More than 46.7% of the votes cast were in favor of independence, up from 43.3% in the last vote in November 2018.
The turnout was more than 85% as the poll took place without any masks or social distance measures. The epidemic has largely saved the Govt-19 case numbers from being greatly reduced due to the drastic reduction in international flights and the mandatory isolation of visitors.
The referendum was part of a program of colonization under the Noumia Accord of 1998, which ended a deadly conflict between mostly pro-independence Indigenous peoples and descendants of European immigrants. Another referendum could be held by 2022 if at least a third of the local legislature demands it.
Located between Australia and Fiji, New Caledonia provides France with a strategic base in the Pacific Ocean, where China is expanding its influence, as well as important nickel reserves. Its population is 270,000.