Buka / Port Moresby (dpa) - On the Pacific island of Bougainville, a former German colonial area, vote the residents since Saturday about their independence. The island currently belongs to Papua New Guinea as an autonomous province.
Despite many raw materials, this is one of the poorest states in the world. According to the referendum commission, over 200,000 people are eligible to vote. If in the referendum a majority opts for a complete secession of Papua New Guinea, Bougainville could become the youngest state in the world. The result is not expected before mid-December.
Because of the geographical features, the referendum is likely to drag on for more than two weeks. The autonomous region Bougainville is nearly 9000 square kilometers large. It consists of the main island of Bougainville, the northern island of Buka and several smaller archipelagos. Many communities are difficult to reach. The province is named after the French adventurer Louis Antoine de Bougainville. From the 1880s to the First World War she was part of German New Guinea. Then she was occupied by Australia, until she finally became part of Papua New Guinea in 1975.
Bougainville has larger deposits of copper and gold. The population is very poor. In addition, the island suffers from the degradation of raw materials to environmental problems.
The referendum was agreed after a decade-long civil war with more than 15,000 deaths, which ended in 1998. In addition to independence, the vote also offers greater autonomy. Most experts expect a majority to vote for independence. The last word would then be in Parliament.
Official website for the referendum
Government of Bougainville for referendum
Foreign Office on Papua New Guinea and the referendum