An independence referendum is being held in Bougainville between 23 November and 7 December 2019, with results to be declared around 20 December. The vote is the result of an agreement between the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government. Voters will have the option of requesting greater autonomy within Papua New Guinea, or full independence. The vote is not binding and the Government of Papua New Guinea has the final say on what becomes of Bougainville in the event of voters choosing independence.
Bougainville is a small archipelago of islands flung 700km off the coast of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon Sea. Bougainville has a population of 2,50,000.
It is a vote that has been nearly 20 years in the making. In 2001, as part of a peace agreement to end a devastating decade-long civil war, the government of Papua New Guinea promised the population of Bougainville, , that they would one day be able to cast a vote to decide their future.
The results will be announced in December. It is expected to be overwhelmingly in favour of independence, with some observers anticipating a “yes” vote of more than 90%. But the road to this point has been long and tortured and the path ahead could be just as problematic, even if the result is as emphatic as predicted.
Relevant for GS Prelims; IOBR