Gibraltar shadow over Falklands election
In one of the smallest and remotest elections in the world, over 1,500 voters in the Falkland Islands go to the polls (Today Thursday November 22), with the shadow of Argentina's sovereignty claim still hanging over them despite defeat of the Argentine invasion force in the 1982 Falklands Conflict.
All eighteen candidates contesting the eight seats in the Falkland Islands Legislative Council embrace one issue in common --- rejection of any concession to Argentina on surrender of sovereignty. Their message is: "The Falklands are British and wish to remain so".
Despite repeated British assurances, fresh anxieties have been aroused by indications that the United Kingdom Government may be ready to make concessions to Spain to solve their 300-year-old sovereignty dispute over Gibraltar.
Both territories have been given pledges that there would be no change of sovereignty without the consent of the people. Argentina says it is watching the Gibraltar dispute with interest because there are similarities. The United Kingdom, while admitting sovereignty is on the agenda in the Gibraltar talks, insists that Falklands sovereignty "is not negotiable".
To enable Falklands constituents in scattered farms and settlements to vote, ballot boxes are taken to them by Islander aircraft and four-wheel-drive Land Rovers where no roads exist.
Much of the campaign has been dominated by local issues and the economy, but outgoing Councillors, most of whom are standing again, have faced criticism for abandoning pledges that they would not negotiate with Argentina unless it first dropped its sovereignty claim.
Controversy flared when they participated in Anglo-Argentine negotiations resulting in a 1999 agreement ending a ban on general access to Argentines to visit the Islands, in return for resumption of flights from Chile (cancelled following Britain's detention of former President Pinochet of Chile) and enhanced co-operation in combating illegal fishing and conserving fish stocks vital to the booming Falklands economy.
Some voters questioned the wisdom of making these concessions and whether the Argentines have kept their side of the agreement on greater co-operation and to review their practice, anathema to Islanders, of using Argentine place names for the Falkland Islands, which they continue to do, calling them "Islas Malvinas", and Stanley "Puerto Argentino".
Unprecedented prosperityWith encouragement from the Foreign Office, most of the Councillors approved the 1999 agreement as "a good deal" a