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South Atlantic Council
Occasional Papers





No. 12

A Report on the Referendum on the
Political Status of the Falkland Islands
  By Peter Willetts, Emeritus Professor of Global Politics,
City University, London

June 2013




John Fowler puts his ballot paper in the box on the back of a Land Rover at Estancia Junction

Voting on 10 March 2013
John Fowler cast his ballot when Mobile Team 2 made
their first stop at Estancia Junction


On 10-11 March 2013, a referendum was held in the Falkland Islands to ask the 1,650 voters whether they wished to retain their status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom. There was an extraordinary outcome, with a turnout of 92.0% and a 99.8% Yes vote. The author visited the Islands from 7-15 March on behalf of the South Atlantic Council, to monitor the administration of the referendum and assess the political events. This formal report covers the political background that led to the decision to hold a referendum; the problems about choosing the question; the composition of the electorate; the political debate prior to the vote; the polling arrangements; the work of the international observers; and the political significance of the whole process. Recommendations have been made for improvements in the administration of any similar referenda in the future.

Procedures for a free and secret ballot were scrupulously followed and the result accurately represents the collective choice of the electorate. The administration was fair and unbiased towards arguments for a No vote in support of the Argentine sovereignty claim. However, some of the official materials were biased, in that they implicitly discouraged a No vote by voters who might wish the Falklands to be independent.

Analysis of historical materials and the 2012 census demonstrates the people are not simply British, but have developed a separate identity as Falkland Islanders. Indeed, the electorate included "Incorporated Islanders", who were neither born in the Falklands nor born in the UK. These new immigrants have been granted Falkland Islands Status and become naturalised British citiznes. They provided 9.2% of the voters. The high turnout could only have been obtained by a large proportion of the Incorporated Islanders voting Yes. The outcome was the product of an intense degree of social mobilisation. The Falklands is such a small distinct political community that we should call it a "micro-nation".


The views expressed in South Atlantic Council Occasional Papers are those of the author
and are not necessarily shared by all members of the Council.

© Copyright for text and photographs, South Atlantic Council, and Peter Willetts, June 2013.



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Emeritus Professor of Global Politics, City University, London
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