The Associated Press NOUMEA (AP) — Voters turned out in exceptional numbers Sunday to decide whether the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia should break free from the European country that claimed it in the mid-19th century.
The territory’s High Commissioner estimated that close to three-quarters of the territory’s registered voters had cast ballots an hour before polls closed Sunday evening, a far more robust turnout than in New Caledonia’s provincial election in 2014.
Results were expected later Sunday. From Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron was to speak about the territory’s future and its choice in a televised address.
The independence vote marked a milestone for the archipelago that lies east of Australia and has sun-kissed lagoons as well as a mining industry for nickel, a metal used in electronics manufacturing.
Voter Monette Saihulinwa said she opposed independence. “I don’t necessarily want our lives to change,” the 50-year-old said.
Others hailed the ballot as a landmark. “We’ve been waiting for 30 years for this vote,” said Mariola Bouyer, 34. “This vote must demonstrate that we want to live in peace, no matter our race, our roots.”Speech