INTERIM STATEMENT – 8th November 2018
The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Committee to New Caledonia deployed across the three provinces of New Caledonia to observe the referendum on sovereignty and independence under the 1998 Noumea Accord, held on 4 November 2018.
In each of the three provinces – the Southern Province, the Northern Province, and the Loyalty Islands Province – the mission observed all the stages of the referendum; the opening of polls, polling, closing of polls, and counting.
In the Southern Province Forum Team Leader the Honourable Milton Dube of Nauru said “I was impressed by the transparent and efficient conduct of all the stages of the referendum we observed in the polling venues we visited. We’d been informed of the extensive preparations undertaken and that was evident in the professionalism and good understanding of procedures by polling officials in the stations we observed.” The Team also observed polling in the large decentralised polling venue for Noumea residents registered in the Loyalty Islands Province.
The Teams that deployed to the Northern Province and Loyalty Islands Province agreed that overall, the conduct of the polling and counting was transparent, peaceful, and orderly. However, both teams noted that there were aspects of the administration which could have been strengthened to facilitate greater efficiency.
The Team that observed the referendum in the Northern Province commended the transparency and credibility of the processes, but was of the view that polling and counting officials could have benefited from better training. In some polling stations presiding officers were not thoroughly versed with the procedures for the conduct of the referendum, and in one polling station it took two hours to count approximately 600 votes.
The Team that deployed to the Loyalty Islands Province also commended the high level of transparency of process, however noted on the basis of its observations, that polling officials could have had a better understanding of the procedures for the conduct of the referendum, which would have resulted in greater efficiency of process.
On the whole, the Forum Ministerial Committee agreed that notwithstanding the technical issues observed in the conduct of the election, there was a high degree of transparency and credibility of process, and that the final result accurately reflects the will of the voters.
The Forum Ministerial Committee also commended the extra efforts by the French State, Territorial authorities and municipalities to facilitate as wide a participation of voters as possible. These include the automatic registration of eligible voters on the special roll, the provisions for registration of eligible voters on the day of election, and the establishment of de-centralised voting stations for the Loyalty Islands in Noumea.
“This referendum is an historical event in New Caledonia and it was therefore important that as many eligible voters as possible could cast their votes,” said Minister Dube. The Forum Ministerial Committee also commended the high level of participation in the referendum, noting that an eighty percent voter turnout is high by any standard.
We take this opportunity to congratulate all the stakeholders involved in this referendum for the transparent and peaceful manner in which it was conducted” said Minister Dube. “We also congratulate the people of New Caledonia for their participation in this process and take this opportunity to reiterate the continued support of the Pacific Islands Forum to New Caledonia.”