New Caledonia votes to stay in France; separatists boycott

NOUMEA, New Caledonia (AP) — Voters in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia voted overwhelmingly Sunday to stay part of France in an independence referendum marred by a boycott from separatist forces. They had called for the vote to be delayed because of the pandemic and were angry over what they said were government efforts to sway the campaign. French President Emmanuel Macron hailed the result and ordered the launch of negotiations on the territory’s future status. Official results showed 96% of voters favored staying in France. Keeping New Caledonia is important for French geopolitical ambitions in Indo-Pacific, and the vote was closely watched amid growing Chinese influence in the region.