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Falklanders say no to Argentina

A Falkland Islands resident excitedly casts his ballot.

A Falkland Islands resident excitedly casts his ballot.

STANLEY — 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.

The official count on Monday showed 99.8 per cent of islanders voted in favour of remaining a British Overseas Territory in the two-day poll, which was rejected by Argentina as a meaningless publicity stunt. There were only three “no” votes out of about 1,500 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.

“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, at the southern end of South America. Turnout was 92 per cent among the 1,649 Falklands-born and long-term residents registered to vote.

Three decades after hundreds died when Argentina and Britain went to war over the far-flung South Atlantic archipelago, islanders 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 said.

The mood was festive as islanders lined up in the cold to vote in the low-key island capital of Stanley, some wearing novelty outfits made from the red, white and blue British 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. (Reuters)

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