People who are living in the southern Pacific French territory of New Caledonia have again voted to stay with France, narrowly rejecting independence in a tightly-fought referendum.
With all ballots tallied from the territory’s polling stations numbering 304, the “No” vote on Sunday won with 53.26 percent.
Turnout according to reports was very high in the second of three possible referendums on independence, at roughly 80 percent of the 180,000 New Caledonians eligible to vote.
By refusing independence, the territory with a population of 273,000 people will keep generous subsidies from France, which provides $1.5bn in financial support annually.
According to speech made by French President Emmanuel Macron from the Elysee palace, he welcomed the result with a “deep feeling of gratitude”.
That was the second time New Caledonia held such a referendum. Two years ago, nearly 57 percent of voters had also rejected independence. A third referendum may be possible in 2022 if a third of the local assembly votes in favour.
According to history, New Caledonia was colonized by France in the mid-19th century and won greater autonomy and the right to hold up to three referendums on its political status under the Noumea Accord, signed between French and local leaders in 1998.