Falkland Islanders vote overwhelmingly to keep British rule
By Marcos Brindicci and Juan Bustamante | ReutersSTANLEY, Falkland Islands (Reuters) - Residents of the Falkland Islands voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in a referendum aimed at winning global sympathy as Argentina intensifies its sovereignty claim, results showed on Monday.
March 12, 2013, 2:55 pm TWN
The official count showed 99.8 percent of islanders voted in favor of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the two-day referendum, which was rejected by Argentina as a meaningless publicity stunt. Only three "no" votes were cast.
"Surely this must be the strongest message we can get out to the world," said Roger Edwards, one of the Falklands assembly's eight elected members.
"(The message) that we are content, that we wish to retain the status quo ... with the right to determine our own future and not become a colony of Argentina."
Pro-British feeling is running high in the barren and blustery islands that lie off the tip of Patagonia, and turnout was 92 percent among the 1,649 Falklands-born and long-term residents registered to vote.
Three decades since Argentina and Britain went to war over the far-flung South Atlantic archipelago, residents have been perturbed by Argentina's increasingly vocal claim over the Malvinas - as the islands are called in Spanish.
Local politicians hope the resounding "yes" vote will help them lobby support abroad, for example in the United States, which has a neutral position on the sovereignty issue.
"We're never going to change Argentina's claim and point of view, but I believe there are an awful lot of countries out there that are sitting on the fence ... this is going to show them quite clearly what the people think," Edwards added.
The mood was festive as islanders lined up in the cold to vote in the low-key island capital of Stanley during voting, some wearing novelty outfits made from the red, white and blue Union Jack flag.
"We are British and that's the way we want to stay," said Barry Nielsen, who wore a Union Jack hat to cast his ballot at the town hall polling station in Stanley, where most of the roughly 2,500 islanders live.