Bougainville votes for independence from Papua New Guinea

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Canberra, Dec. 11 (BNA): The people of the Pacific island of Bougainville have voted overwhelmingly to seek independence from Papua New Guinea (PNG) in a historic referendum, the Bougainville Referendum Commission announced.


Bertie Ahern, the chair of the commission that conducted the vote, said on Wednesday that 181,067 people had cast their ballot with just 3,043 voting to remain part of PNG but with greater autonomy, Deutsche press agency (dpa) reported.


About 98 percent, or 176,928 people, voted for independence, paving the way for the island group to become the world's newest nation.


Bertie said 85 percent of people enrolled for ballot had voted, which was a record for PNG. Just 1,096 votes were discarded.


The vote, which was carried out over two weeks between November 23 and December 7, is not legally binding.


Ahern is the former Irish prime minister who played a pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process.


The results were announced in Buka, the capital of Bougainville. It was broadcast live on Facebook, as well as local television stations.


The venue burst into applause and cheers when they heard the results and the crowd could be heard singing songs in the video broadcast.