Dec 10, 2019

The world's next country could be an island in the South Pacific

Referendum day in Buka, the capital. Photo: Ness Kerton/AFP via Getty Images

The people of Bougainville voted Saturday on whether they want their island to become the world's newest country.

What to watch: Results are expected by Dec. 20, and most in Bougainville (pop. ~300,000), currently an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea, are expected to vote for independence.

Why it matters: The FT notes that the referendum has "sparked a scramble for political influence among foreign mining companies, which want to establish operations in an area that contains copper and gold reserves estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars."

  • Flashback: "Between 1972 and 1989 a company controlled by Rio Tinto, the Anglo-Australian miner, operated the massive Panguna copper and gold mine on the island, generating huge profits and almost half of Papua New Guinea’s export income. But the activity caused serious pollution and tensions to flare with locals, which erupted into civil war in 1989 and forced Panguna to close."

What to watch: The referendum is non-binding, and Papua New Guinea's leaders seem reluctant to grant independence.

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Scottish leader says U.K. election results are mandate for independence referendum

Nicola Sturgeon. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

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The big picture: Johnson and his Conservative Party are opposed to Scottish independence, a movement that Sturgeon has continued to champion even after it was defeated by 10% in a 2014 referendum.

Go deeperArrowDec 15, 2019

U.K. election: Boris Johnson's big win means Brexit is coming

Johnson on the campaign trail. Photo: Ben Stansall - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Prime Minister Boris Johnson exceeded all expectations in Thursday's U.K. general election, and his landslide victory makes the U.K. all but certain to exit the European Union early next year.

Driving the news: With 649 out of 650 constituencies reporting, the Conservatives won 364 seats, securing the biggest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher's 1987 victory. It's an utter disaster for the opposition Labour Party and its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who has announced he will step down after a "period of reflection."

Go deeperArrowUpdated Dec 13, 2019