|French security forces arrive in force to deal with protesters
demonstrating over the independence vote |
defeat near St Louis, Noumea. Image: Screenshot - Les Nouvelles Caledoniennes
French security forces moved in today to clean up the main road near an indigenous Kanak tribal area after a day of tension and rioting failed to mar a lightning visit by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and post-independence referendum discussions.
Philippe flew in yesterday morning from Vietnam for a day of meetings with political leaders, customary chiefs and voting commission officials to take stock of the historic referendum on Sunday.
While the people of New Caledonia voted to remain French with a resounding 56.4 percent of the vote, it was a lower winning margin than had been widely predicted in the face of an impressive mobilisation by pro-independence groups.
The yes vote was 43.6 percent but Kanak voters were already a minority of the restricted electorate for this vote that included Caldoche (settlers), descendants of a French penal colony for Algerian and Paris commune dissidents, and people of Asian and Wallisian ancestry.
A record 80.63 percent turnout with 141,099 voters in a largely calm and uneventful referendum day has opened the door for serious negotiations about the future of New Caledonia.
READ MORE - David Robie's analysis of the referendum:
Part 1: New Caledonia vote stirs painful memories – and a hopeful future
Part 2: Kanaky independence campaign rolls on ... encouraged by ballot result