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New Caledonia to hold second independence referendum in 2020

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron take part in a meeting with New Caledonia representatives in the Murat lounge at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 30, 2017.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (L) and French President Emmanuel Macron take part in a meeting with New Caledonia representatives in the Murat lounge at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, October 30, 2017. Ludovic Marin, Reuters

France's Pacific island territory of New Caledonia will hold a second referendum on independence next year, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Friday.

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Voters in a November 2018 poll chose to remain part of France by 57 percent to 43 percent, a result hailed by President Emmanuel Macron as "historic".

The date for next year's poll will be decided over the coming fortnight, but will be either August 30 or September 6, Phillipe said.

French since 1853, New Caledonia is a remote island territory in the southwestern Pacific and has around 270,000 inhabitants.

It is located about 18,000 kilometres (11,000 miles) from mainland France -- some 2,000 kilometres east of Australia.

The bulk of New Caledonia's population is made up of indigenous Melanesians known locally as Kanaks (39 percent) and European inhabitants, or Caldoches (27 percent).

There are also minorities from the relatively nearby Polynesia Pacific region, and a growing part of the population identifies as mixed-race or "Caledonian".

Violent clashes between Kanaks and Caldoches in the 1980s were ended by a French-brokered reconciliation, attempting to rebalance wealth and share out political power.

A landmark 1988 deal between France and opponents and supporters of independence, gave the islands more autonomy.

(AFP)
 

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