- France - Mayotte - referendum
Mayotte residents celebrated in Mamoudzou, the largest city in the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte, as news broke that 95.5% of those who voted supported becoming French in a referendum on Sunday. Even before the results were announced, hundreds of people had gathered on Mamoudzou’s seafront.
"The importance of the massive vote announced yesterday evening by a local representative set off a wave of merrymaking until late at night,” reports FRANCE 24’s Lucas Menget in Mayotte.
In France and in Mayotte, where local representatives were campaigning in favour of joining France, right-wing and left-wing parties both hailed the vote. French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared the poll a “historic vote for Mayotte and for its residents,” his office said.
The African Union and the Comoros administration - which sees Mayotte as a territory "occupied" by France - have denounced the referendum.
Becoming a French department also means polygamy will be banned in Mayotte and Islamic courts will lose most of their powers.
Turnout was not as high as expected and reached only 61.02%. “Many thought that the vote was a done deal and didn’t even bother going to polling booths,” said local right-wing UMP party representative Ahmed Attoumani Douchina.
About a third of Mayotte’s 186,452 residents are undocumented workers who arrived illegally from the Comoros.
The island will become a French overseas department in 2011, abandoning its status as an “overseas collectivity” during the renewal of its “Conseil General” or French department council.
The French parliament will now face a vote on a constitutional law authorising the creation of the new department. New fiscal rules will be gradually introduced, social security benefits will be available in 2012 and new taxes applied in 2014.
Mayotte’s GNP is only a third of that of French Indian Ocean island La Reunion, but it is nine times that of the neighbouring Comoros islands.