Falklands residents go to polls in sovereignty referendum

City A.M. Reporter
RESIDENTS of the Falkland Islands started voting yesterday in a sovereignty referendum that seeks to counter Argentina’s increasingly assertive claim over the British-ruled territory.

Diplomatic tension between Britain and Argentina has flared up after more than three decades since they went to war over the South Atlantic archipelago, and that has unsettled some of the roughly 2,500 islanders.

With patriotic feelings running high, Falklands-born and long-term residents will cast ballots in the two-day referendum in which they will be asked whether they want to stay a British Overseas Territory.

Officials are expected to announce the result at about 11pm GMT after polls close tonight. An overwhelming “yes” vote is likely, prompting Argentina to dismiss the referendum as a meaningless publicity stunt. A high turnout is expected, however, as islanders embrace it as a chance to make their voices heard.

People queued to vote at the town hall in the quiet island capital of Stanley, where referendum posters bearing the slogan “Our Islands, Our Choice” adorned front windows. The post office produced a line of official stamps to mark the occasion.

Residents say fiery remarks by Argentine President Cristina Fernandez and her foreign minister have galvanised patriotic sentiment on the islands, which lie nearly 8,000 miles from London and just a 75-minute flight away from southern Argentina.