New Caledonia votes to stay with France

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The Pacific nation of New Caledonia has voted against independence from France.

More than 174,000 voters were eligible to vote in the first referendum in more than 30 years.

The official result was that 56.4 percent of people choose to stay with the current system.

Interest in the vote was huge with turnout at 80 percent and in some electorates soaring to 95 percent.

Opting for independence would have also allowed New Caledonia to join the United Nations like its four Melanesian neighbours – Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji.

The referendum is the result of a process that started 30 years ago to end years of violence between independence supporters and French opponents. Over 70 lives had been lost. The two sides agreed upon a 1988 deal and another agreement a decade later included plans for an independence referendum.

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