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UN team heads to Tokelau as it prepares to vote

UN team heads to Pacific islands of Tokelau as its population prepares to vote

In preparation for a landmark referendum on Saturday that could change Tokelau’s political status, a team of United Nations observers is going to the tiny South Pacific atolls that make up the Non-Self-Governing Territory, which is currently administered by New Zealand.

The polls, which will allow all of Tokelau’s 1,500 citizens to vote, will give the islanders a further opportunity to decide their future after the Territory’s main representative body decided last year to move towards “self-government in free association with New Zealand.”

Tokelau has decided that an overall majority of two-thirds of the valid votes cast would be required for a change in its status, according to UN officials familiar with the upcoming referendum. Polls will be open from Saturday to Wednesday.

A UN spokesman in New York said the observer team would be made up of four officials, including a member of the world body’s Special Committee on Decolonization and two representatives from the Electoral Assistance Division.

At the moment there are 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories left on the UN’s decolonization list, while there were 72 such territories when the Organization was established in 1945. The last Non-Self-Governing Territory that exercised the right to self-determination was East Timor, now known as Timor Leste, which gained independence in 2002.

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