New Caledonia Remains French for Now: The Referendum of 4 November 2018

New Caledonia’s 4 November 2018 referendum confronted voters with a divisive choice between independence and continuation of the status quo. It did not offer another potential option of ‘associated independence’, though that had been extensively discussed in the 1980s and rejected by loyalists because it entailed too much independence and by Kanak because there was too much association. This paper reviews the referendum outcome, and examines the controversies about the make-up of the special electorate for that contest and the electoral roll for provincial and French national elections. It argues that 30 years of dialogue about decolonization have not succeeded in reaching agreement on a consensual future and that there is a risk that the political map of New Caledonia remains frozen. What is needed is not further institutional reform or so-called ‘internal decolonization’ but a crossed interethnic majority in Congress, and a halt to French efforts to strengthen the anti-independence demographic and electoral majority. Mathias Chauchat, Professor in Public Law.

This article published in the Journal of Pacific History, volume 54 issue 2, is now available here: