Residents of the Pacific territory of New Caledonia have voted overwhelmingly to remain part of France in a third referendum that was boycotted by pro-independence groups, local media reported.
Police reinforcements have been sent to the territory known as “the pebble”, which is of strategic importance to France and is part of a wider tussle for influence in the Pacific between Western countries and China.
Local television channel NC la 1ere reported that, with 90.23 percent of ballots counted, 96.32 percent of voters had voted “No” to independence in a result that will raise fears of unrest and questions about the legitimacy of the process.
French President Emmanuel Macron said that New Caledonia will remain French.
The archipelago of about 185,000 voters, 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) east of Australia, was granted three independence referendums under a 1988 deal aimed at easing tensions on the islands.