The South Atlantic Council has discovered there were fewer Chilean, Argentine and other foreign-born voters in the Falklands referendum than they estimated three weeks ago.
On 28 June, the SAC published a “A Report on the Referendum on the Political Status of the Falkland Islands”, by Professor Peter Willetts of City University, London. A few days later, an Islander challenged his estimate of 18 Argentine-born Islanders being on the Falklands electoral registers. This led the professor to realise he had made a simple, but significant, error in reading the 2009 Constitution as giving the vote to all adults with Falkland Islands Status.
In fact the new immigrants, what Professor Willetts calls “Incorporated Islanders”, had to have both FIS and British citizenship, before they were eligible to vote. This means those without British citizenship must be deducted from his estimates of the number of foreign-born voters in the referendum on 10-11 March 2013. In addition, there are seven Commonwealth citizens with FIS. If they had the vote under the previous Constitution and were still in the Falklands in March 2013, they remained on the electoral registers.
The overall effect of the changes is to reduce the estimate of the number of Incorporated Islanders able to vote in the referendum from 182 to 151 British citizens, plus up to seven Commonwealth citizens. Neither this reduction nor any errors in the data estimates are enough to change the conclusion that 100 to 150 Incorporated Islanders did vote Yes.
However, this error did not completely answer the challenge made by the Islander. Among the 18 Argentine-born adults with Falkland Islands Status, only five were Argentine citizens. According to this data from the April 2012 census, the 13 Argentine-born British citizens with FIS should be on the electoral registers.
Using the census data to estimate the number of Argentine-born electors is complicated by three factors. Firstly, various small changes in the population occurred in the year between the April 2012 census and the March 2013 referendum. Secondly, before the 1982 hostilities, some Islander women went to Buenos Aires to give birth and returned with their babies to the Falklands. This should not affect the estimates, because one of the census questions was used to exclude babies born outside the Islands who came to the Falklands within six months of their birth. Thirdly, as is mentioned in the SAC paper, not all those who were eligible to be on the electoral registers had actually been registered.
Professor Willetts sent a copy of the electoral registers to his challenger, who then realised he also was mistaken. Ten Argentine-born people were quickly identified. Two of these were Chileans who parents had been in Argentina when they were born. The other eight were Argentines who had been so integrated into Island life for decades that they had not come to the Islander’s mind as having Argentine backgrounds. The remaining three Argentine-born British citizens in the census count have not yet been identified, but this is too small a difference to need resolving.
Professor Willetts says the existence of the unnoticed Argentines supports his concept of some immigrants becoming Incorporated Islanders, who are fully integrated into the Falklands community. He is grateful to the Islander (who wishes to remain anonymous) for challenging him, so that his errors have been corrected. The revised referendum report and a more detailed note on the corrections made are available from www.staff.city.ac.uk/p.willetts/SAC/OP/OCPAPERS.HTM.
Professor Willetts piece, “Falklands united as a political community thus a ‘micro-nation’ says SAC” can be found in MP, July 16th. The article was also published in the Penguin News.