The Falkland Islands Executive Council has officially approved that a referendum be held on the question of the political status of the Falkland Islands and announced that the Electoral Commission has agreed to assist with developing the form of the question and the wording and give a bespoke advisory service including providing guidance.
Planned for March 2013 the specific date will be determined by the Chief Executive in consultation with Members of the Legislative Assembly. In a paper on the subject it was recommended that qualifications to vote will be the same as qualifications to stand for the Legislative Assembly.
These are: He/she has attained the age of 18 years; and - He/she is a British citizen, a British overseas territories citizen or a British overseas citizen and has Falkland Island Status; or - His/her name appeared on the register of electors for a constituency in force on the date the Constitution came into force (1 January 2009); and, he/she was resident in the Falkland Islands on the qualifying date in relation to which his or her entitlement to be registered as an elector falls to be considered and had on that qualifying date been so resident for the qualifying period.
Once the votes are verified, votes from both constituencies will be mixed and the outcome be announced as a ‘whole Islands’ result.
It was also recommended that the election be independently observed by a panel of representatives from a number of different countries including from South America; also that a suitable person be invited to select and Chair a diverse and independent panel of observers and set out its terms of reference.
With regard to referendum arrangements Executive Council approved an option that: (a) static polling stations on polling day at ( i) Town Hall, Stanley; (ii) Goose Green;(iii) Fox Bay; and (b) mobile polling stations: (i) to the hospital and sheltered accommodation on polling day; (ii) to all settlements with registered voters present on East and West Falkland, including outer Islands accessible by FIGAS (but excluding Beaver, New Island, and West Point – this is due to costs).
Under ‘campaigning’ the paper notes: “It is recommended that the government makes clear that to facilitate a full and open debate it will provide equal access to public facilities and take the necessary steps to ensure that the right to freedom of expression is respected.”
Funding for the referendum consists of £12,000 for the administration £15,000 for Executive support and £50,000 for other costs including observers. A temporary post will be added to the establishment to provide liaison, logistical and administrative support for the referendum.