People in the South Pacific archipelago of New Caledonia have voted overwhelmingly against full independence from France in the third and final referendum on the issue, a result that could raise fears of unrest and exacerbate ethnic tensions in the tiny island.
Final results from the territory’s high commission showed on Sunday that 96.49 percent of voters have rejected breaking away from France, while only 3.51 percent were in favor. Turnout was only 43.90 percent, and it was particularly low in areas where the majority of indigenous Kanaks, who support independence, live.
Polls opened across the 2,000-kilometer territory in the east of Australia at 7:00 a.m. local time (2000 GMT) on Saturday and were closed at 6:00 p.m. local time (05:00 GMT) on Sunday. The results were announced a few hours after all ballots were counted.
The referendum was marred by a boycott from the main independence parties who said…