Stanley (Falkland Islands): An overwhelming 99.8 per cent of Falkland Islands voters have backed keeping their government just the way it is: a British Overseas Territory. Of the 1,517 valid votes cast, only 3 islanders voted "no" to the question: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?" One vote was somehow lost, officials said on Tuesday.
The referendum was aimed at showing the world that the residents' self-determination must be considered in any discussion about the future of the remote South Atlantic islands that are claimed by both Britain and Argentina. Elections officials reported a 92 per cent turnout among the approximately 1,650 Falkland Islands voters eligible to cast ballots in the referendum.
International election observer Juan Henao said the process was completely normal. The islands' 2,563 residents did all they could ahead of the vote to show their sympathies, waving Union Jack flags and dressing up in red-white-and-blue.
"The referendum will show the world how we feel, that we are British and that we wish to remain British. We don't want to have nothing to do with Argentina, at all," islander Barry Nielson said as he voted. The ballot didn't consider any alternatives, such as full independence or some sort of political relationship with Argentina.
The Falkland Islands Government had said that if a majority said "no," they could explore alternatives in a second vote later. The government barred from voting any visiting contractors or personnel from the sizeable British military deployment, as well as anyone who had not resided in the islands for the last 12 months, thus excluding several people with islander status who have chosen to live in Argentina.
Argentines consider the "Islas Malvinas" to be part of their national territory, taken from them by the British more than 180 years ago. One group at the iconic obelisk in Buenos Aires said yesterday that it had gathered 100,000 signatures supporting Argentina's claim to the territory and the resource-rich seas that surrounds the archipelago.