Sunday, the Caledonians massively moved to the polls to decide on the future of their territory: 80.6% participation. Never seen. "This is a historic moment in the country, we want to thank all the voters. For us Kanaks, this is a sign that the usual handicap of abstention is exceeded. We are finally ripe politically, welcomed Louis Mapou on behalf of the Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front (FLNKS), despite the defeat – less clear than announced – of the yes to independence with 43.6% of the vote, against 56.4% for the no.

Tight and late result

Earlier in the day, in a polling station in the Magenta district of Nouméa, a long line of voters patiently waited in turn, mixed with the image of the territory. "I will vote yes for France to stop taking advantage of us. In memory of the struggles of our old people. We must let the Kanak people rule the country ", Jules pose, Kanak 26 years old employed in green spaces.

In front of him, Jacqueline, 72 years old, arrival of metropolis in 1968, vote no: "I'm not really against independence, I do not mind being run by a white man or a black man, but I think the country is not ready yet." This is also the opinion of Siwen, 23, Kanak. "Me, I vote white, assumes he. When you see the news, how do you kill yourself between Kanaks, it makes you think about independence. But it's true, the French are exploiting our wealth. " Close by, surrounded by a gang of ten friends, Roger (1), in his twenties, face tattooed, also voted yes. He warns : "If independence does not pass, we answer for nothing. There are tired of being robbed our country. We are at home. If violence is to be used, we will go. To die as martyrs does not scare us ", he launches darkly.

Read alsoReferendum in New Caledonia: Macron salutes a "mark of confidence in the Republic"

At the other end of the city, in front of the covered stadium of the Vallée-du-Tir converted into a polling station for the inhabitants of the small islands of the archipelago who reside in Nouméa, the Kanak flags flourished among the crowd. The atmosphere is quiet but vibrant with enthusiasm. We want to believe in the victory of independence. "We all mobilized to be finally allowed to solve our problems ourselves. The French system is not adapted to our culture and our customs. There has been progress, yes, but that's not enough, explains a man from Lifou, the largest of the Loyalty Islands. It is necessary to feel all the same "A little french". Louise Waetheane, of Mare (second island of the archipelago), 58, explains with a smile: "We can win, we must try. I am here to defend our country, our culture, our heritage, and I trust our leaders to know how to manage independence. "

The hope of Louise Waetheane fell with that of tens of thousands of separatists, when it became certain that the score of yes was to cap at 43%, around 21 hours. A result later than expected, the record participation has complicated the count – the final results in Noumea are not yet known at the time of writing, because of a polling station where the assessors were overwhelmed by the affluence. A tighter result also than the polls announced. "In the predominantly loyalist communes, the independence vote is progressing. We had set 23%, we are there, Louis Mapou rejoices. We must now, politicians, make proposals and bring the people to independence at the next referendum, he concluded.

In the other camp, it is considered that the independence progression remains marginal. "The big balances are not disturbed, we have been in the same configuration for years", Judge Virginie Ruffenach, Secretary General of the Rally-Les Républicains. Believing that "The Caledonians have said it clearly, they do not want independence", and "These referendums are a source of clashes," it calls for a review of the plan provided for by the Nouméa Agreement (1998). "Politics is a living matter, nothing is engraved in marble. It takes a road map to build the country in respect of identities ", she says.

"Respect for identities"

Philippe Gomès, centrist deputy and leader of the majority formation Calédonie ensemble, joins her. "We will have to continue the dialogue with the separatists in order to build the consensus necessary to complete our political and economic emancipation within the Republic", He says. Stating that this will have to be done "In a context less constrained than that resulting from the strict application of the Nouméa Agreement". Edouard Philippe, arrived Sunday morning in Noumea, must receive the representatives of the political formations to discuss the contours of this "context".

In the meantime, in the evening, more silent and deserted than ever, Jamel and Clariston, a couple of young Kanaks, were dragging nauseated in the streets of the capital. "We are very disappointed! We will not wait two years to vote again. By then, the Whites will have looted everything. Young people will revolt, that's for sure. Our politicians only think of making money. I'm ready to take risks. As my family did during the events, swear the girl.

(1) The first name has been changed.

Antoine Pecquet for Nouméa



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