NOUMEA, New Caledonia (AP) — Voters have turned out in exceptional numbers in a referendum to decide whether the French South Pacific territory of New Caledonia should break free from the European country that claimed it in the mid-19th century.
The territory’s High Commissioner estimated that close to three-quarters of registered voters had cast ballots an hour before polls closed. Results were expected later Sunday.
The independence vote marked a milestone for the archipelago that lies east of Australia and has sun-kissed lagoons as well as a mining industry for nickel, a metal used in electronics manufacturing.
More than 174,000 registered voters were invited to answer the question: “Do you want New Caledonia to gain full sovereignty and become independent?”