However, the proportion of YES and NO votes wasn’t the same as two years ago: Support for independence rose from 43% in 2018 to 47% this time, suggesting that more residents than ever before want an independent country for their island home. Voter turnout was also even higher than last time, rising from 81% to 85%.
So what happens next? Well, for now New Caledonia will keep its current status as an autonomous region of France. But the islands could still become independent in the coming years.
The French Tricolor (top) and the “Kanak flag” (bottom) are co-official flags of New CaledoniaOfficial Name:
• New Caledonia (English)
• Nouvelle-Calédonie (French)
• Sui generis (“one of a kind”) special collectivity of France
• Overseas country/territory of the European Union
That’s because the Nouméa Accord that paved the way for this referendum also allows for one more independence vote, in 2022, for a total of three. All it takes is for at least one-third of the region’s legislature to vote in favor of holding the last referendum – and that body already has a pro-independence majority.
On the other hand, anti-independence politicians have called for a change of script now that secession has failed twice. One argument says the final referendum should instead give residents the option of going the other direction: further integration with France. But that could be very controversial, with many calling it a violation of the Nouméa Accord.