The indigenous Kanak inhabitants, who largely favor independence, had referred to as for non-participation in the referendum as a result of they’re in a 12-month mourning interval following a September surge in coronavirus infections.
“The Caledonians have chosen to remain French. They decided that freely,” French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned in a televised tackle.
“We can’t ignore that the electorate remained deeply divided over the years,” he added. “A period of transition is now starting.”
“This referendum, for us, is not the third referendum. We consider that there are only two legitimate referendums. 2018 and 2020. This referendum is the referendum of the French state, not ours,” he mentioned on Franceinfo radio.
Analysts worry a “no” vote will anger independence supporters, creating instability.
“The worst of scenarios? A “no” vote which bans independence, but whose legitimacy is rejected by the Kanaks via a massive abstention rate motivated by Paris’s refusal to postpone the vote,” François Heisbourg, an analyst for the IISS think-tank, mentioned on Twitter.
One of 5 island territories spanning the Indo-Pacific held by France, New Caledonia is the centerpiece of Macron’s plan to extend its affect in the Pacific.
Sunday’s vote is the third prescribed by a deal hammered out a decade after talks on the island’s future started in 1988, and which referred to as for a series of independence referendums.
Fighting erupted in the Nineteen Eighties in the nickel-rich territory, 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) east of Australia and 20,000 kilometers (12,000 miles) from France, between supporters of independence and people who wished to remain French.