French President Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday that a majority of voters in New Caledonia have chosen not to split from France.
"I must express firstly my immense pride that we have taken this historic step together," he said in an address to the nation. "I also want to express my pride as the head of state that the majority of Caledonians have chosen France: it's a sign of confidence in the French Republic, in its future and its values."
"Final results of the referendum in New Caledonia: 43.6 percent in favor [of separation], 56.4 percent against," the Office of the High Commissioner said in a statement.
Prior to that, New Caledonia La 1ere TV published the preliminary results, indicating that voters have decided to remain part of France, with 56.8% rejecting the proposition to become an independent nation after 90% of the votes had been counted.
The office for the French High Commissioner also stated that the "Non" vote was leading with 60 percent of the votes counted.
Surveys earlier conducted on the island indicated that between 63 and 75 percent of the population would vote against secession.
About 175,000 people were eligible to cast their vote in the independence referendum at 284 polling stations. If a majority of voters do not support the independence bid, a new vote could be held in two years.
The last voter at the de-localized polling station for Ouvea. New Caledonia independence referendum: polls are closed, the count begins #ReferendumNC2018 #independencereferendum #referendum #NouvelleCaledonie pic.twitter.com/O1N5o9nhdp— Linda Mazure 🎗️ (Vinotava) (@Vinotava) 4 ноября 2018 г.
New Caledonia is a French island territory in the Pacific, located 18,000 kilometers (11,000 miles) from France. It has a population of some 269,000, with native Kanaks making up about 40% of the island's inhabitants. The archipelago has a status of the French special collectivity with its own congress and government.