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Macron welcomes vote in Pacific territory – POLITICO

France’s Pacific archipelago territory New Caledonia voted overwhelmingly Sunday to reject independence in a referendum choice welcomed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Closing outcomes confirmed 96.5 p.c voted to stay French, with 3.5 p.c backing independence and about 3 p.c of votes void. The outcome was clouded by a boycott by main pro-independence events, who claimed the coronavirus pandemic prevented a good poll. Turnout was solely 44 p.c.

Nonetheless, Macron mentioned the outcome was unequivocal. “New Caledonia will due to this fact stay French,” he said in a televised tackle. “The women and men of New Caledonia have chosen to remain French, they’ve chosen freely.”

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Sunday’s vote marks the third time the islanders have voted in opposition to independence in barely three years. Earlier referendums had been a lot nearer, with 56.7 p.c voting for France in November 2018, and 53.5 p.c in October 2020.

The votes had been a part of an settlement concluded with native political leaders in 1998 that supplied as much as three pictures at independence.

With the newest signaling the “authorized finish” of that course of, Macron mentioned the territory was getting into “a brand new stage.” Sébastien Lecornu, the French authorities minister for abroad territories, is in New Caledonia and can meet with native leaders “to construct a response to the institutional and authorized questions” which have been raised, the president mentioned.

He promised French help to assist the territory get well from the COVID-19 pandemic, construct financial progress and “set up a spot in the Indo-Pacific area, which is present process elementary adjustments and faces strong tensions.”

Politicians loyal to France had warned the nickel-rich archipelago might fall beneath Chinese language affect, if it voted for independence.

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